News

Nazi “Prank” at Houston Anime Con No Joking Matter

It's Goin Down - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 22:13

The post Nazi “Prank” at Houston Anime Con No Joking Matter appeared first on It's Going Down.

Seems a Texas based neo-Nazi activist who worked with Richard Spencer dressed up as one of his other heroes – an SS soldier at a recent comic book convention.

On the surface it couldn’t sound more ridiculous: a young man dresses up as an SS officer to attend a scandal-prone anime convention in Houston, where he proceeds to hijack an abandoned panel and read what was described as “Anne Frank fan-fiction.” It may sound like a tasteless joke, offensive but unworthy of much serious attention beyond a sad shake of the head.

It turns out, however, that the man who made the appearances to the Anime Matsuri convention on March 30th is more dedicated to his beliefs than one might assume. Image quality always leaves room for doubt, but he bears a strong resemblance to a known Fascist activist from Houston named Dustin Allman.

Allman was, along with Preston Wiginton and Joffre Cross III, a key organizer of Richard Spencer’s 2016 visit to Texas A&M University. He was also spotted at the Vanguard/Daily Stormer-led “Texas is Ours” rally in June of 2017. At “Texas is Ours” he was recorded bragging of his work with Cross, who is himself a neo-Nazi celebrity notorious for attempting to sell stolen military gear to Fascists.

This is another example that should inform our attitude toward creating anti-fascist culture, particularly “jokes.” Some may be inclined to look the other way or downplay the significance of jokes and pranks, but all too often humor is simply a dishonest front for people who are serious – deadly serious – about their beliefs. When we see someone being a Nazi “ironically,” we should instead take them literally.

Categories: News

Angry crowd shouts down NJ lawmakers over vaccine vote

Citizens for Legitimate Government - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 17:55

Angry crowd shouts down NJ lawmakers over vaccine vote --'I do not believe that our government has the right to pass judgment on whether or not one's religious practices are genuine.' - Brian Malloy | 05 April 2018 | An Assembly panel Thursday advanced legislation that would make it tougher to obtain a religious exemption from mandatory immunizations, despite opposition from more than 300 people who were vociferously angry when it passed. The bill, A3818, would require students, or their parents or guardians if they're minors, to submit a notarized document explaining how getting a vaccine conflicts with their bona fide religious tenets or practices. General philosophical or moral objections wouldn't suffice. More than 60 opponents testified against the bill, mostly citing religious grounds, and around 270 more submitted slips noting their opposition but didn't speak.

Categories: News

Belarusian anarchists: Lukashenka’s political opponents or criminals?

Anarchist News - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 17:19

From Belarus Digest, March 20th, 2018 (MSM)

On 12 March 2018, a Minsk court sentenced Sviataslau Baranovich to three years in prison. He admitted that he had hit police officers in civilian clothes during the brutal arrests of anarchists.

In recent years, the anarchists have become the most persecuted group opposing Alexander Lukashenka’s regime. They remain the most extreme organisation with a capacity to organise street protests and radicalise them.

However, it remains difficult to call some of the anarchists’ actions, such as the burning of billboards, politicised or even rational. Therefore anarchists have become a serious dilemma for human rights organisations because they do not know how to view them, although the government clearly sees anarchists as a political problem.

Origins of anarchism in Belarus

Anarchism in Belarus first appeared at the beginning of the twentieth century, although it took a very different form to the contemporary movement. At that time Bialystok (then part of the Hrodna region in the Russian Empire) became the centre of the Belarusian anarchist movement; anarchists organised economic strikes, expropriations and the killing of police officers. The anarchists in Belarus had strong links to the movement in Russian (perhaps even belonged to it). For instance, the first Belarusian anarchist, Siarhiej Kavalik, followed the ideas of Mikhail Bakunin, one of the principal founders of anarchist theory.

Anarchists often had Jewish origins and their victims were also Jews, since they often represented the capitalist (exploitative) class. But in general the movement proved something of an alloy, including intellectuals, the unemployed and criminals, according to a recent Russian-language book by Jury Hlushakou called Revolution Is Dead! Long Live the Revolution! Anarchism in Belarus 1902—1927.

Despite differences from earlier eras, contemporary anarchists’ choice of a specific ideology faces some restraints since communism remains an origin of Belarusian anarchism. As Mikalai Dziadok, one of the representatives of the movement, explained in an interview to Euroradio in 2017, anarcho-communists comprise the majority in the Belarusian anarchist movement. Where other versions of anarchism, popular in other countries, emphasize individuality, Belarusian anarchism remains primarily collectivist.

Meet the Belarusian anarchists

In all countries anarchists annoy the state authorities, but the Belarusian government has a much stronger feeling.

Undoubtedly, the Belarusian anarchists remain the most radical opponents of Lukashenka. In 2010 they threw smoke grenades and set fire to the Ministry of Defence and a casino; in 2016 they threw paint at the main entrance of the state television company; and in 2017 showed themselves the most organized group of the protesters against the law on parasitism, the most popular protests in the Belarusian regions in history. In Brest, a city in western Belarus, anarchists initiated those protests.

The movement’s structure remains opaque, so no one knows exactly how many people it comprises and their capabilities. The movement has a number of public representatives, including Mikalai Dziadok and Ihar Alinevich, known publicly because the court previously sentenced them to 4 and 8 years respectively in 2011. Their publicity is the result of their criminal record and not their wishes. Both, along with Alexander Frantskevich, formed part of the “anarchist case”, but Alinevich received the longest prison term. The court found him guilty not only for the aforementioned 2010 actions, but also for attacks on a branch of the Moscow-Minsk Bank and the Isolation Centre for Offenders Minsk.


Photo: Svaboda.org

Even without traditional methods of organisation during their actions, anarchists look like they have the most effective organising capacity. Although it remains difficult to assess the size of the anarchists’ regional structures, for sure the figures are not small. For instance, the organisation of “Revolutionary Action” has four-and-a-half thousand subscribers on the social network VKontakte. No opposition group has as many subscribers. Recently, the Belarusian authorities blocked the page, but it still works through a virtual private network (VPN) or outside the country.

However, such repressions do not mean that the government represses all activities of anarchists. The movement still has its own media website, pramen.io, which actually has a modest number of followers in social networks of around three thousand people; a “Free Thought” library operates in Minsk, although it is open just four hours per week; a “Food Not Bombs” initiative feeds poor people each week at three locations in Minsk, but also has some smaller groups in several other towns; and an “Anarchist Black Cross” helps anarchists and others somehow connected to the movement that have been imprisoned. Although Sviataslau Baranovich’s political views remain unknown, he will receive the help of the “Anarchist Black Cross”.

Political radicals or criminals?

The authorities see them at the same time as the most extremist enemies, able to radicalise protests and criminals, says the respected human rights defender Nasta Lojka in a comment to Belarus Digest. Accordingly, the prosecution of anarchists stems from mixed motives; it remains difficult to know whether Belarus’s authorities are defending public safety or Lukashenka’s regime. In fact, the government shows that it sees anarchists as political activists. For instance, before the presidential election in 2015, when Lukashenka pardoned a group of high-profile critics of the regime, the group included politicians such as Mikalai Statkevich and anarchists such as Dziadok and Alinevich.


Photo: 1reg.by

In some ways anarchists supply a convenient enemy for the authorities since they often break the law, giving the government an excuse to move against them. In 2017 members of the movement burned a billboard of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Ivacevichy. Afterwards, three anarchists (17, 19 and 21 years old) received three years of probation. Independent journalists and human rights activists devoted little attention to this trial because it held no political significance. But, as Nasta Lojka says, police used the burned billboard as a pretext for searches in other cities, which looked quite far-fetched.

In 2017 Belarus held a long trial against an anti-fascist group of football fans, who received from 4 to 12 years for fighting, drug distribution and leading an unregistered organisation. However, authorities stretched some evidence in the case against anti-fascists so as to intimidate the entire community of informal youth groups.

The politicization of other cases looks more obvious still. During the protests against parasitism police arrested dozens of anarchists or others close to the movement. As a result of the protests, one activist, Zmicier Paliyenka, went to jail. Belarusian human rights activists have recognized him as a political prisoner.

However, the example of Paliyenka remains one of several. In practice, human rights activists try to avoid such criminal cases, especially involving violence. If anarchists consciously use violence, the human rights activists are forced to close their eyes to violations of rights against them.

Tags: BelarusMSMcategory: International
Categories: News

Ministry of information have blocked the mirror of the “Pramen” website

Anarchist News - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 14:15

From Pramen

Over a year ago our website and group in vk.com (the most popular social media site in post-USSR countries) were blocked by decision of court, considering information on the website to be extremist. Several weeks ago new round of attack from Ministry of information came. The new group, created after the blocking, was blocked also. At that moment it had around 1450 subscribers.

Several accounts of a users, that were running the group, were also blocked on territory of Belarus. Apart from that Belarusian government has added to the black list mirrors of the website in other social networks – Tumblr, WordPress, Livejournal and Diaspora. Before that our group in Facebook was blacklisted as well.

And although it is not possible for Belarusian government to block Facebook, Diaspora and Twitter due to some technical decisions made by those social networks, other networks and our mirror on WordPress.com are not available anymore on the territory of Belarusian state: notification about illegal information appears in your browser instead.

 

“This material is blocked on a territory of Belarus according to the decision of a Ministry of information of Republic of Belarus”

 

It is worth mentioning that last year the Ministry of information have blocked several major liberal oppositional news websites with hundreds of thousands of daily visitors. On top of that at the end of 2016 Belarusian government have successfully implemented blocking of tor network leading to 50% drop in users of service [1].

Belarus haven’t achieved level of China in censorship of the internet yet. There are still oppositional websites running online, however the trend points in negative direction with possibly few year away from total Internet censorship. This is also proven by the new law on mass media that is expected to pass in April, which tightens even more possibilities for non-govermental media to operate. One of the demands of this new law is an obligation to identify each user who posts a comment.

As for our collective – although the website is blocked, in Belarus the user base is steadily growing. Our mirrors in social networks give possibility for the people to follow our activity and we are continuing to fight and hope that you too!

1: https://metrics.torproject.org/userstats-relay-country.html?start=2016-01-05&end=2018-04-05&country=by&events=off

Tags: BelarusRussiacounter-infocensorshipthe statecategory: International
Categories: News

Care is at the Heart, an Interview with Marina Sitrin

Anarchist News - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 12:46

via The Institute for Anarchist Studies

For this interview we (carla and Nick) sent Marina Sitrin a ‘preamble’ outlining some of the ideas behind our book Joyful Militancy (available here!), and then included a couple questions based on Sitrin’s other writings (especially Horizontalidad: Voces de Poder Popular en Argentina). We do not include the preamble here because as time went on in the researching, interviewing and writing of the book our ideas and articulations shifted. For that, we are deeply indebted to all our interviewees who offered new insights and shed light on areas that needed reworking. Instead we have added a short overview about the book, below, so the interview can stand alone. Our website also includes the book’s introduction and other excerpts.

Joyful Militancy Overview

Why do radical movements and spaces sometimes feel laden with fear, anxiety, suspicion, self-righteousness and competition? In Joyful Militancy, we call this phenomenon rigid radicalism: congealed and toxic ways of relating that have seeped into radical movements, posing as the “correct” way of being radical. In conversation with organizers and intellectuals from a wide variety of currents, we explore how rigid radicalism smuggles itself into radical spaces, and how it is being undone. Rather than proposing ready-made solutions, we amplify the questions that are already being asked among movements. Fusing together movement-based perspectives and contemporary affect theory, Joyful Militancy traces emergent forms of trust, care and responsibility in a wide variety of radical currents today, including indigenous resurgence, anarchism, transformative justice, and youth liberation. Joyful Militancy, by carla bergman and Nick Montgomery, foregrounds forms of life in the cracks of Empire, revealing the ways that fierceness, tenderness, curiosity, and commitment can be intertwined.

Interview:

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carla & Nick (c&N): Based on what we’ve told you about the book project, can you tell us what resonates and what doesn’t?

Marina Sitrin (MS): I am so excited for this project. It all resonates deeply with things I have been thinking, witnessing, fearing and dreaming. The role of joy, in particular in the way you describe it, is often absent – though not entirely – from our conversations and constructions in the northern part of the Americas and Europe. I do see joyful militancy as closely tied with emotion, on the individual and collective level, and will get to that with some of the later questions. It is both a fairly large and abstract concept, and at the same time a very simple direct and emotive one. How do we feel when we participate in a movement or group? What are our relationships to others in the group? Does it feel open? Caring? Social? Is there trust? Why do we come back to assemblies and actions? Are people open to one another?

c&N: We have been told that “joyful militancy” or “militancia alegre” is a more common notion in Latin America. Do you know anything about the genealogies or origins of “militancia alegre” in Latin America?

MS: I don’t know of any specific genealogy, but there are for sure many examples of the practice and language of care, trust, love and affect throughout the history of movements in Latin America. I see joyful militancy as both a practice and an articulation – ideally both together. As a practice it does not always come with an articulation of the experience, and then there are those groups and movements that have the explicit language of care and love, but do not always practice it. My first exposure to it as a concept together with a practice was in Argentina in the post 2001 popular rebellion and all the social creation that transpired.

In Argentina, when people found themselves without even the basic means for survival, they turned to one another. They did this without political parties, intermediaries or any sort of hierarchy. People explained this moment in history as a rupture, a break with past ways of organizing, but also a break in their finding one another – looking to one another. The effects of the dictatorship maintained a hold on many aspects of daily life, including fear of the other and a culture of turning one’s back in silence. HIJOS, the children of the disappeared, had been organizing for a few years in this silence, with internal forms that focused more on social relationships than an “end”. Their argument is that, at least in part, it was people in society who allowed the dictatorship to take place, with what they call a social silence. They organize in neighborhoods, speaking to people, face to face, and trying to recreate community. Their internal forms of organizing are also focused on social relationships, and in particular horizontal and affective forms. They speak of love as a relationship necessary in their group’s internal relationships as well as the sort of movement that has to be built. HIJOS in many ways was a precursor to the forms of organizing a few years later with the neighborhood assemblies, unemployed movements and recuperated workplaces, among tons of other collectives and networks that emerged.

I would love to share quote after quote of people in the movements in Argentina. I was honestly a bit surprised at how much people spoke of love and care as necessary to create the sort of world they desire. But now, in retrospect, the fact that the forms of organizing are all about social relationships—paying attention to power, making sure people are heard and can speak, prioritizing voices often excluded and ignored, organizing events with food, drinks, music and other tools that make them more social—were crucial and often just necessary for survival. Care is at the heart of the new forms of organizing. Horizontalism as a relationship is all about a shifting relational form between individuals and a group – paying attention to both – now. It is not a means to an end, but the means are a part of the end, and the end keeps changing.

Another example from Latin America, and one that is more of a practice and less something talked about as a tenet around which they organize, is the Zapatista communities. Their forms of organizing are based in assemblies striving for all people to participate equally and in creating structures of care, from health care to food and education, and then also creating processes for alternative adjudication—all of this is deeply affective, even if they do not shout to the world that they are joyous and grounded in affect. The joy is seen in these affective practices as well as in the celebratory nature of many of day to day experiences.

I see the concepts of joyful militancy, affective politics and a care/love-based organizing as also directly tied to prefigurative politics, and that has a long history and roots in Latin America. By prefigurative I mean as much as possible creating the desired future alternatives in the present. This is an idea and practice that has roots all over the world, from the IWW in the US to the writings of W.E.B DuBois, and the practices of anarchists and autonomous activists in Latin America. It has become more popular and widespread, both in theory and practice, in the last twenty years with the rise of more autonomous and horizontal organizing, particularly in Latin America, but also with the Global Justice Movement and Occupy and movements of the Squares.

Going back to Latin America, while the more contemporary movements organize with affective politics as one of the hearts, consciously and intentionally, there is a long history of this sentiment as a part of organizing, including say the FORA in Argentina (the largest Anarchist federation in the world) which was a part of organizing Patagonia Rebelde, a free region in the south of Argentina in the early 1900s. While it was brutally repressed, the movement organized to create a free society then and there, rather than demanding or building towards a future society. This included all sorts of different social relationships which entailed care, trust and love as their foundation. This is a history that many contemporary movement participants have ideas about, but few have read about it in great detail. It is one of those funny things where historical memory is somehow imbued in current practice, even without a direct intentionality.

I also wonder about liberation theology and the role of love and care in Latin American movements today. Similar to the role of the memory of anarchism in Argentina, in some parts of Latin America, the liberation theologists actively supported revolutionary movements and for sure brought in the importance of love and care in the present – not just the future. Of course the Catholic church as a whole, like the communist parties, were all about the future and not the present.

c&N: You have described the work you do as a form of militancy. Can you say what you mean by this concept? What is militancy about, and what does it do?

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MS: I also describe myself as a militant. I say this in part to counter the concept of activist, especially as it is understood in parts of Latin America, which is as oriented to NGOs – more ‘professional and paid’. In Spanish una militanteis often someone who was a part of something, such as a movement or group, though not something like Greenpeace. It describes a more direct action sort of politics. And, in English, as it sounds, it has a force or action orientation – not militaristic, that is not what I mean – but determined and maybe hard left. I am not sure exactly how best to translate it alone; I use it as an alternative to identifying as an activist and to indicate direct involvement and revolutionary politics.

As for the work I do, I tend to think of it as militant research, and by this I mean a form of research and investigation that is together with people in movement, so again, militant meaning a sort of direct participation and action. I try as best as I can to not only use interview-based work, but to be involved in those things I write about and to engage back and forth with movement participants (if I am not active in that movement all the time) so as to check and make sure I am reflecting what people are doing/thinking. Sometimes this leads to a lot more work or investigation, as happened in Argentina when I was close to finishing the book Horizontalidad: Voces de Poder Popular en Argentina.1 I thought it was just about finished and circulated it with a number of movement participants. I got great feedback, and a few women from two different unemployed movements gently told me, compañera, you cannot publish this, it does not include the direct struggles of the Mapuche or Guarani, not in their own words. So, I took another many months, built relationships with a few indigenous communities in the far north, was fortunate to be joined by one of these two women when I went, and then was able to finish the book.

All together then, this sort of work can become a form of militancy as it can help connect people from different groups and movements who might not otherwise meet one another. For example, having developed relationships with more autonomous movements in Greece, and collaborating with a network of assemblies who translated Horiozntalidadinto Greek, we found that not only were the voices in the book useful, but there was an opportunity to create direct relationships. So twice I helped initiate visits of Argentines to Greece. The second such visit was a worker from a recuperated workplace who met with workers in Vio.Mein Thessaloniki, and after the visit and exchange of ideas the Greek workers decided absolutely to recuperate their workplace. They say that without the direct exchange of ideas they might not have done it. The sharing of movement contacts and relationships across movements, countries and continents is for me a part of being a militant who does militant research.

c&N: What’s been your experience of sad militancy2–meanness, shame, fear, guilt, and ideological purism–in movement spaces?

  1. What sustains sad militancy?
  2. What provokes or inspires it? What makes it spread?

MS: I have put off this question for second to last. And now am again taking a break, since as important as it is, it is such an ugly and sad part of our movements I am going to wait a moment before writing about it. I will answer it however, since it is also what has destroyed so many groups and movements – so utterly important.

Sad militancy can come from many places. First, and important to identify is when it comes from external forces, people who are paid to disrupt movements and do so in all sorts of ways from disrupting democratic processes and assemblies, to those who spread gossip and create divisions amongst people in the movement. This has been seen in so many movements historically and there is a great deal to learn from these experiences, particularly the disruption of the Black Panthers – and here I am thinking of some of the lesser known and insidious tactics such as “poison pen letters.”

I would like to end it there, but sad militancy is not just something that people from the outside are paid to do – and in fact, they are able to be paid to do it because we are so susceptible to it. On a basic level, the space a group or movement creates from the beginning is key – the tone and openness, or not, makes a big difference if one wants to focus on new relationships with one another. Along these same lines, ideological rigidity and hierarchies in ideas, formal and informal, create a closed and eventually nasty space for those not ascribing to the ideology or a part of the clique. People do not stay in movements that organize in this way, or if they do it is with a sort of obedience that is not transformative for society and instead creates versions of the same power and hierarchy – with people not being actors or agents of change, not to mention that dignity cannot grow or flourish.

My early organizing experiences were fortunately with anti-racist and later Central American Solidarity movements, with people who had been a part of the civil rights and later anti-nuclear movements, so they had a focus—at least in part—on social relationships and democracy. Later however, when I decided I needed to be a part of a revolutionary group that was organizing against capitalism as a whole, well, I found myself in a few different centrist socialists groups which were really soul deadening. It was all about ideology and guilt. One could never do enough, and could never know enough or quote enough of whomever was the revolutionary of the day (James Cannon, Tony Cliff, etc.). It was also politically all about the end and not the day-to-day. This even included women: one would think after the radical feminist movement these groups would get that relationships have to change now, but no, it was all about the future free society we all had to work for – accepting relationships as they are pretty much. I later came around some anarchist groups, thinking that they would be more open and focused on the day-to-day, as that is what I had read from the theory, but found the rigidity around identity too harsh and since I was not squatting or dressing a certain way I was kept at arm’s length – which was fine since I felt too rejected to try very hard.

Enough of these icky groups. I think the big question for today is how do we organize in ways that try to prevent sad militancy from creeping into our practice. Articulation of a joyful movement is important, and not as easy as one might think since there is so much resistance to the idea of feelings, which is also to say, relationships.

Many in Argentina reflected on this, especially men in the unemployed movements and workplaces who would joke that they would approach people on the street and ask if they wanted to join a “love movement” and get punched. But it was a real question of machismo they were addressing. I do not mean just men here either, though it is the joke. Social relationships are increasingly given lip service, but we often do not work on them in our movements in a way that makes them dynamic enough to really create an affective space. Relationships here means not only how we treat one another individually, but things like our democratic practices as a whole and how and if we adjudicate or resolve conflicts that arise. So first, talking about it and stating clearing that it is important. But then, some movements do this and still sad militancy sneaks in, or jumps in, depending … it often concerns democratic practices and questions of flexibility—it is crucial to be able to change our practices as well as our ideas. That does not mean to be without clear ideas that are collective, but to avoid the ideological traps that can happen. Autonomous and anti-authoritarian movements are hardly exempt from this. In Occupy we sometimes found people arguing they were more horizontal than others, or more autonomous … this creates a closed and defensive space.

One way to try and keep our movements and groups more open is to be more open ourselves. To call things out when we see them. Not in a hostile way, but in the sense of identifying it and talking about it collectively, in special assemblies or in the moment. This is tricky as it can come off as hostile and people can easily get defensive – we live in a society where we are all so very fragile that calling someone out almost always leads to defensiveness … so figuring out ahead of time how we will deal with these issues as they come up and sticking to it. I am thinking now of how Occupy Farms in Albany California, learning from some of the difficult and sometimes nasty things that emerged in Occupy, organized based on a few common agreements and to participate all had to agree. Things that included participation – not as a ‘work ethic’ sort of thing, but that if one was going to be a part of a collective farm, one had to be a part of a working group that did things (without creating ableist hierarchies, of course). This avoided people coming to just hang out and speaking in assemblies from a position of ideas alone without practice. In Argentina, when people were disruptive in assemblies, it was called out (this was learned first by having assemblies destroyed by disruption). People are told to stop, and if it does not work they are asked to leave. It is more complicated than that, but that is the essence for some assemblies. In the 15M they had a group of people that was always roving during assemblies to try and support those people who were disrupting, believing they needed support, and not to be silenced.

c&N: What’s been your experience of joyful militancy?

  1. What inspires/encourages/sustains it?
  2. How do you try to embody it?

MS: My first experiences with joyful militancy, without having a name for it at the time, were very specific and location-based. I went to Seattle in 1999 to participate in the protests. Later in the day, when the repression picked up, I found myself alone and scared for a moment – only a moment however as an experienced anarchist from San Diego helped me quickly join their affinity group. Not only did I come without an affinity group, but what I knew of them was from reading Murray Bookchin on the Spanish Revolution. It was all a wonderful idea, like assembly based decision making and councils, but I had no direct experience with them. I had been a part of a few different hierarchical socialist groups and left all of then in part due to the hierarchy and centrism, but also what for sure can be called sad militancy. I had witnessed mass assemblies and direct democracy, including in Tepotzlan Mexico where people had taken over the town in the later 1990s, but still had had no direct participation – I did not know what it felt like to be a part of it. Not until Seattle.

So, this wonderful person, whose name I have since forgotten, brought me into a small group and together we blocked an alley where delegates were trying to pass, and supported one another in the massive tear gas attacks by the police, as well as negotiated road blocks of burning dumpsters and projectiles launched to protect people from the police. It was quite scary, but I did not feel fear as much as energy. I was now with a small group of people who were taking care of each other, checking in with one another all the time and taking breaks to do so. And then that evening there was a spokescouncil and I felt that “aha” moment where it all made sense. The ideas I had read about with direct democracy and people caring for one another was all around me, even amidst the tear gas and injured people – perhaps even because of it – which brought up the stakes and made the care and trust all the more important. It was a short-lived experience, but has marked me forever.

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As for longer, deeply grounded movements based in affective politics and joyful militancy, that for sure would be Argentina post 2001. While emerging from necessity, from a rupture in society that was both crisis and a newfound finding of one another on the streets, it continued in many of the movements, taking deep root and becoming the place from which people organized and mobilized. What sustained it in many places was concrete projects around which people were organizing, from running workplaces to maintaining popular kitchens or media groups, together with open discussion of what it was/is. Collective reflection cannot be underestimated, and by this I do not mean only having assemblies to discuss what we are doing or will do next – and not either reflecting on what we have done. But reflecting on the meanings behind what we are doing and why. Taking time to explore ideas and our feelings related to them. There were constant discussions and assemblies in all of the movements, from the recuperated workplaces during lunch and breaks to weekly gatherings within the unemployed movements and parts of the agenda of the neighborhood assemblies. There were also assemblies comprised of people from the different movements to discuss things together, like autonomy, autogestionand affective politics, and this was done in a way that reflected the politics of the movements, with openness and care, in the discussions and infrastructure – meaning there was food and breaks with music and murgas, helping to facilitate the celebratory and emotive elements involved in all of it.

As for my personal attempts to try and embody a politics of affect and joyful militancy, I don’t know. On a very basic level, but one that really does mean a lot, and at the risk of being dismissed as unserious, I try and be open, smile, and really listen and ask questions with others in the movements. Welcoming people, asking about their lives and being friendly is a bigger deal than most people realize. Feeling welcome into a space that is new, feeling like people care about who you are and not just what action you are participating in is huge. On a more general level, I try and create space for others to speak and be heard, and in a way that is meaningful. This often means things like helping to make sure there is facilitation that allows and develops listening, as well as creating a warm climate and atmosphere around discussions, assemblies and other spaces. I like to think I try and reach out to younger and sometimes lesser experienced participants so as to help them feel heard and involved. This is almost always with younger women. In Occupy in New York, I shifted early on to focusing on the legal group since we did not have much of one when it began. A space or movement without legal support, especially in an action that is not legal in certain respects, is not serious, and for sure does not have affect and care at its core. We must protect all people in their/our bodies; this means legally and in the streets with affinity groups. Within the legal group of Occupy we quickly discovered that we not only needed to create legal support for the hundreds arrested, but also to create spaces of mediation for the conflicts coming up in the Plaza. I was a part of a legal subgroup, together with Safer Spaces, that was trying to set up a mechanism not only for mediation but also the adjudication of conflict. Without ways of resolving conflict within our movements we cannot say we take care, trust and affect seriously.

c&N: Because we think joy and sadness are always moving and shifting into new configurations, we are really curious about how these shifts take place. Have you seen spaces, conversations, or practices shift from joyful militancy into sad militancy, or vice- versa? What leads to these shifts?

I have seen movements go from joyful to sad, though it is usually soon before they break up as that specific form of movement. From my experience, this has often been when there is very specific activity on behalf of one or a few people who are extremely disruptive and their disruptions are not dealt with. Our culture of silence or even being polite and not wanting to say things out loud, at least not collectively is a real problem. It allows one or a few people to dominate groups of hundreds and event thousands as was the case with Occupy. This was not the only thing that happened with Occupy, but was among them. In Argentina I saw it happen with left political parties intentionally destroying horizontal assemblies (something that is much harder to do today since they have learned hard lessons and changed their practices). I also saw it with the role of money in movements: from the unemployed movements having to be “managers” of state money and deciding who gets it or not as the government never gave enough, to NGO money in movements creating divisions and finally, to what was for sure government intervention by way of paid disruptors who—when all the other forms of disruption did not work—used direct violence, burning homes and shooting at participants until the land-based movement dispersed. This however raises bigger questions about defense of movements, perhaps for another book.

In your book, Everyday Revolutions,3 you continually return to the rejection of ideology and how important this has been for movements to create communities based in love and trust. It sounds like in Argentina, what is being rejected is the traditional ideology of Marxism that tends towards vanguardism, hierarchy, and so on. Is there something about all ideology that gets in the way of love and trust across differences?

MS: After the 2001 economic collapse people in Argentina came together from all sorts of backgrounds, as well as networked across all sorts of social classes and identity based groups. The unemployed with the formerly identified urban middle class, the Guarani and Mapuche with media collectives and children of the disappeared (HIJOS) and workers recuperating their workplaces with all of the above. People organized in their locations and came together out of necessity. They forced out four governments in the first months of the rebellion with sheer popular power – people in the streets banging pots and pans (cacerolando). No one called people together, not unions or political parties, they did not have formal leaderships, banners or posters, or even united slogans in the beginning. They came together banging pots and pans and created the song – Que se vayan todos, que no quede ni uno solo (They all must go, not even one shall remain). And it worked. They forced out presidents, heads of the judiciary, economy and other ministries. There was a rejection of what was – of political parties and forms of hierarchy (power over) that people saw as responsible for the economic crisis and mass privatization which in part destroyed the economy.

Again and again people who I spoke with while living there and those I’ve visited over the years insisted that they did not want to replicate the forms of organization that they saw as responsible … not only responsible for the crisis, but also all those groups and forms of organizing that were also seen as unable to respond sufficiently to these groups – so forms on the right and left. All political parties. So, yes, what you suggest with a rejection of Marxism as an ideology is true, but it was also true for anything that seemed to harken a pre-formed ideology or set of ideas. People wanted to create things anew – social relationships and forms of organizing. And this is where we get to some of the ideas in your next question. There were and continue to be consistent forms and ways of thinking about organizing and while it was in no way an ideology – there is an amazing consistency in the ways people across class and identity spoke and speak about these forms: new – rejecting the old – and creating something new in similar ways. I believe this is tied to what is being rejected, but will get to that next.

c&N: You continually point to the concepts of horizontalism, affective politics, autogestion, and autonomy as concepts that are widely shared among movements in Argentina. It’s clear that they’ve been central to constructing and sustaining movements, and warding off ideology and co-optation. You quote a number of movement participants who seem to refuse any concrete definition of the movements they’re part of, and you call these concepts “living words.” It seems clear that you and the voices you highlight are refusing rigid definitions of these terms–autonomy, horizontalism, love, and trust–so that they can be part of an ongoing discussion, and that this is different from an ideology. Can you say more about these differences? What is the difference between an ideological concept and a living word?

MS: First, the idea of a living word comes not from me, but people in the movements. I repeat it a lot since I love the way it captures what people are doing and striving towards, but it is for sure a concept that is also living and dynamic, from within the movements in Argentina. What is rejected is ideology, as I understand people in the movements, but this they mean any predetermined set of ideas or concepts that then are applied to life – to concrete situations. I don’t know that all ideology is rejected as an analysis for what is wrong in society – so elements of Marxism to explain capitalism … it is possible, but what is rejected is a set of ideas that will then “free” people or make for new social relationships. The focus of the movements is how people organize and relate now – in the day to day – and from there construct the future. This already implies a dynamic as the everyday changes, and thus the future, as related to the everyday, must change. The same is true for the ideas around which much of the organizing takes place.

Take for example Horizontalidad– a word that did not exist before in Spanish, or if it did it might have been used a few years prior by HIJOS, the children of the disappeared in Argentina… Horizontalidad was and is described as a relationship, a way of coming together without power over the other, as a way of having conversations and relating more generally. It is always described as a changing relationship since as people relate to one another they change and the group changes, thus the concept of the tools used also must change, thus the living part of the word. It is ever-changing and dynamic as it is used in life by people… It is not a description of a relationship either – not direct or participatory democracy, nor consensus – it is a relationship itself that might or might not use these other tools.

Similarly, autonomy and autogestion. Autonomy was used, together with horizontalidadand autogestion to articulate the focus of the movements being on and with one another – not looking ‘up’ but horizontally. Seeing power as something created together, and also as a live thing, not something to take or be given. Autonomy has been used to distinguish both movements and groups, as well as individuals. Deciding for ourselves or oneself. Not having a party or politician dictate what to do or how… autonomy is a practice and dynamic – not an ideology and theory – and the danger of calling it a theory is that it can become less “alive” less of a practice. In a number of movements, when offered ‘gifts’ and subsides from the state, they continued to call themselves autonomous while simultaneously organizing based on the agenda of the state, and eventually the splits within the movements became too big. But that is another story, and entails sad militancy: with the stagnation of autonomy, the trust and care within the movements also unraveled.

One of the things that I believe has helped keep autonomy and horizontalidadas living words is the practices connected with them. It is not abstract. To be autonomous and horizontal is related to concrete practice. So what is that practice? Those movements that self-organize, from the recuperated workplaces (of which there are over 350) to the self-organized unemployed movements (a handful still) and media networks and alternative outlets (of which there are around ) have all continued, even with challenges, and they all argue that part of their ability to face the challenges posed by the state has been their level of self-organization or autogestion. They also intertwine this practice of autogestionwith a practice of autonomy and every changing relationships of horizontalidad.

This brings us to affective politics: a politics based in affect, trust, care and love, as people in the movements describe it. This is something I describe more earlier, but it cannot be left out of any question related to the dynamics of the movements and how they are rejecting ideology and instead are creating ever-changing dynamic relationships.

c&N: We have the sense that the situation in North America is a lot different Argentina and other places in Latin America. One of the most striking differences, from our perspective, is that the dense networks of love, care, and trust do not seem to exist in the same ways among the Left in North America, especially among European-descended settlers. What’s your impression of these differences, and what are the implications for movements in North America?

MS: Hmmm … I think a lot of this has to do with identity, class, experience and options in life. People who lack options, such as the unemployed workers in Argentina or the population facing a total economic collapse, have seemed to come together in very similar ways; both movements rejected hierarchy, power-over, and ideology while at the same time creating new ways of being together, self-organizing grounded in horizontal relationships and affect. As the movements continued over time it does seem like those that have self-organized out of necessity have lasted longer and continued with the same dynamic forms of organizing based in new social relationships.

Saying all this, I am now thinking about a conversation I recently had with two young people, one Mexican and one US, who had both been living in Oaxaca for years, collaborating with the Universidad de la Tierra and Gustavo Esteva in particular. They are now in another part of Mexico struggling to organize a social center, a small editorial (printing books and booklets) and a few other projects, all based in horizontal, autonomous and affective relationships. They are facing internal challenges for sure, and that is some of what we spoke about, but they continue and are quite motivated and really lovely, passionate, smart young organizers. They would be examples of people from the left, working with others on the left, to create these sorts of space – and while they need to self-organize to survive, it is not to the same degree as say the unemployed in Argentina. They could get other jobs, even if with difficulty … so maybe I am contradicting myself, or maybe the first response to organize with autogestion, autonomy and horizontalidad, developing and grounding in affect, is something that is first a response, but can also be something intentional, if one is very very careful with each step and moves slowly. And, if we could all spend years with Gustavo Esteva, learning and sharing, well, that would be a wonderful gift.

So, after being so wordy here, the conclusion is that while joyful militancy is easier to maintain in places where organizing is based in necessity and the rejection of ideology and pre-formed ways of organizing take root much faster, it is not impossible or even improbable in other spaces where people have less urgency and necessity in their survival questions and options … what it does require in these ‘left’ spaces is a lot of attention to maintaining relationships as flexible and ever-changing. Learning from our companeros in the global south.

c&N: Where do you see love, trust, horizontalism, and autonomy being generated and sustained in North America? Or, do you see other, alternative common notions that animate North American movements?

MS: While I do for sure see autonomy, horizontalism, affect, trust and love animating US and Canadian movements, it is not what occurs to me first for these regions. Too often, at least in the US, there is a sort of territoriality of left ideas and sadly ideologies, even in the more autonomous spaces, so rather than flexible and caring ideas guiding our actions and relationships we cling to ideas and notions such as autonomy as a rigid dogma – “I am more autonomous than you” using forms of comparison with actions and even life choices. It has even occurred more recently with horizontalism, so rather than seeing it as an ever-changing relationship that must change as people change and a group changes, it is used as a particular definition of a form of consensus decision-making. We saw this in particular around the Occupy plazas. I have no idea where this came from since it has nothing to do with the way Argentines use it, but instead people argued for horizontalism to mean absolute consensus, not the striving for consensus, but that all must discuss and agree with the exception of one. (Something impossible in groups of people who do not know one another and particularly large groups as we had in New York, with over a thousand or two thousand people in assemblies at times.) What this points to is the rigidity that people—even those who have not been organized in movement or groups before—tend towards, which is a sort of hierarchy of ideas instead of flexible open relationships … maybe we have not broken from the traditional forms of change on the left as many others have. Or maybe when we become more flexible, those who have preconceived ideas of how change should happen jump in so fast and occupy the space that it seems like that is the majority opinion when it is not. I could explore this more, but would rather begin to think about those spaces where people have organized in these more dynamic and open ways.

Historically, there are tons of examples from the history of the US as well as around the world – we just have to look for them and listen well. For example, SNCC was grounded in participatory and direct democracy, with attempts at creating leadership and horizontal relationships, as well as beloved community overall. The radical feminist movement is fairly well known for working on more affective and care-based ties, focusing on sharing personal stories and creating atmospheres of openness within the movement. Following chronologically is the Anti-Nuclear movement in the 1970s and 80s that in many areas was based in direct democracy and affinity groups, making sure to take care of each person bodily as well as with emotional support. I could go into many more examples, though that perhaps is for another project.

c&N: A common perception we’ve been grappling with is that joyful militancy is naïve—a failure to appreciate how bad things are (if you’re not sad/angry/cynical, you’re not paying attention) – how do you react to this?

MS: That is total nonsense. And I do not call many opinions nonsense, really, almost none. But from my experience, those people from whom I have learned about joyful militancy and affective politics are people in unemployed movements, people living in situations such as shanty towns, with nothing to live on and no real future prospects. Or, workers facing a life of unemployment taking over their factories. Or women in the Southern Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in the south of the US. Here of course I did not participate, but have spoken to people who were involved in the movement and I read a great deal, and the concept of Beloved Community was key to what they were trying to construct. Inspired in part I believe by this form of organizing is now Black Lives Matter, who are best known for their interruptions in business as usual; less known is that the organizers try and ground their organizing explicitly in the politics of care and love. Black Lives Matter as a hashtag created by co-founder Patrisse Cullors was made famous almost instantaneously, though lesser known is the simultaneous “love letter” that was written by Alicia Garza, the other of the three women co-founders. Written to “Black folks” it speaks of the importance of loving oneself as well as organizing based in love. And recently, in interviews I have done and read with people who are spending lots of time in Rojava, from Janet Biehl to Kurdish women militant researchers, they all speak of the joy, happiness, laughter and smiles that fill the spaces of self-defense and creation that are the autonomous Cantons of Rojava. Women there speak of the importance of this care, joy and laughter. If they do not appreciate how “bad” things are, then, well, shit, no one does.

I do not write this to dismiss the question, it is an important one, and one I get all the time. Affect is not seen as serious. Both due to what people think is something “soft” or not looking to the bad, but also I think it is a deeply gendered and race-based argument. The people I know who are or did ground their organizing explicitly in affect, joy and beloved community are on the margins of society – they are women in groups and networks all over the world, the unemployed and queer movements in Argentina, SNCC in the US and currently the coordinators of Black Lives Matter, women in Rojava … I could go on and on, but the reality is the opposite of the argument being put forward. I do not want to place ideological or identity boxes on those posing these questions, but from my experience they do not come from similar backgrounds as the movements and networks I just mentioned. And last, forget academia. The idea that affective politics or love based organizing is seen as serious in social movement theory is just, well, not happening. I have been asked so many times, “what is that?” and then told to remove it from articles (which I refuse). Emotion yes, and negative emotion, for sure, but love and affect, no, it is seen as not serious. Who dominates the academic world? Some real similarities with those on the left also making the critique. But, I don’t want to spiral into who is to blame for not taking it seriously; it is not particularly useful. Most important is to do what you both are doing, which is bringing this form of organizing more into the public discourse as an option for organizing.

Notes

1 The English translation of this book, edited by Marina Sitrin, was published as Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina. Oakland: AK Press, 2006

2 Earlier in our process of researching and writing the book, we were using the concept of ‘sad militancy’ to describe the ways that radicalism can be intertwined with shame, fear, guilt and ideological purism. We later changed ‘sad militancy’ to ‘rigid radicalism’ in the book, in order to avoid confusion with the emotion of sadness.

3 Marina Sitrin. Everyday Revolutions: Horizontalism and Autonomy in Argentina. London: Zed Books, 2012.

Tags: IASjoyful militancy
Categories: News

Is the Blockchain Giving Anarchism a New Lease of Life?

Anarchist News - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 12:41

by Malachy Caldwell, via ICO Examiner

Some of us believe various forms of strong cryptography will cause the power of the state to decline, perhaps even collapse fairly abruptly. We believe the expansion into cyberspace, with secure communications, digital money, anonymity and pseudonymity, and other crypto-mediated interactions, will profoundly change the nature of economies and social interactions.

Those words were written by crypto-anarchist Timothy May a quarter century ago. At the time, in a world which was barely discovering the newly emerging potential of the internet, they appeared to many to have a wishful charm about them. Today they are beginning to appear prophetic.

Blockchain-based Social Organisation

May was an accomplished software engineer. He was also a committed anarchist, author of the Crypto Anarchist Manifesto, and believed in the ability of technology to bypass existing models of social organisation. Whilst that belief was shared by many others, what set him apart from many of his peers was his belief in the power of cryptography-based technology to also supplant those existing models.

At the time, the idea of a technologically-inspired anarchism appeared far-fetched, including to many committed cypherpunks from within his own circle. Today, with the advent of blockchain technologies, new platforms are now emerging, such as BitNation, which offer individuals the ability to enter voluntarily into new social arrangements with a wider community whose philosophy and values they both share and help to define. It is the very definition of anarchism.

Those platforms will soon offer up the ability for individuals with a shared vision to interact with others of similar outlook in a myriad of ways, be it through commercial trade, co-operatives, discussion groups or as political lobbies.

Whist this has been happening up to an extent with traditional internet-based community organisation, with blockchain technology which now provides trust and transparency in a system and its laws, May’s prophecy looks set more than ever to come true.

The caveat is that, for the time being, these new communities are likely going to have to exist in parallel with existing methods of social organisation that they may otherwise resent or mistrust.

What will be interesting to observe, however, is whether these new blockchain-inspired anarchistic communities now serve as models of alternative organisation for social relations in the real world.

Whilst no-one may be able to make that call, however things pan out, the blockchain revolution does nonetheless look set to be something more than a technical one.

Tags: cryptocurrencyMSMcategory: Essays
Categories: News

Police probe sheds light into clash between drug dealers and anarchists in Exarchia

Anarchist News - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 12:37

by Yiannis Souliotis, via ekathimerini.com

A police investigation has shed light into a clash between drug and arms dealers and anarchists in the central Athens neighborhood of Exarchia, Kathimerini has learned.

Meanwhile 29 Greek and Albanian nationals are to face charges in the wake of a major police crackdown in the area.

During the operation carried out between December and March 9 police tapped phone conversations and infiltrated the ranks of the suspects as they sought to control the drug trade in Exarchia Square and nearby pedestrian Mesolongiou Street.

The suspects allegedly sold cannabis to users in 2- and 4-gram bags at 10 and 20 euros respectively. They also sold 1-gram cocaine wraps for 55 euros. Police say the drugs were mixed with adulterants before being sold on the street.

Police say the racket employed Algerian migrants as dealers and often resorted to threats and violence to intimidate the competition. In a tapped conversation dated January 19, one of the suspects urges a 25-year-old accomplice, nicknamed “Levendis,” to join him in an attack on Egyptian street vendors. “The Egyptians are here, let’s go slap them about a bit,” he says. “I’ll have something to eat and I’ll join you,” says the other.

Investigators found that the suspects were also selling weapons. Speaking to one of his accomplices in December, one of the suspects brags about a newly purchased air gun. “Oh brother, you know what I just bought? It will blow your mind. It can take out the best of them at a distance of 3 meters.”

The drug traffickers were repeatedly targeted by anarchists, who have a strong presence in Exarchia.

In early February, a group of anarchists vandalized a restaurant on Andreas Metaxas Street believed to be a gang hangout. Two weeks later, anarchists raided an apartment used as a drug den by the racket.

“The regular assaults and the daily drug trafficking made the members of the organization undesirables in the area, resulting in initially sporadic and subsequently more frequent attacks by hooded [individuals] against members of the criminal organization,” a police report said.

Tags: GreeceExarchiadrugsMSMcategory: International
Categories: News

Lock Down Halts Bayou Bridge Pipeline Construction, As State Tries to Ram Through Anti-Protest Bill

It's Goin Down - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 05:15

The post Lock Down Halts Bayou Bridge Pipeline Construction, As State Tries to Ram Through Anti-Protest Bill appeared first on It's Going Down.

Today the L’eau Est La Vie Camp successfully shut down again construction on the Bayou Bridge pipeline. The action comes at a time when the State is attempting to pass an anti-protest bill that would further criminalize anti-pipeline organizing in Louisiana. To hear our podcast interview with L’eau Est La Vie Camp, go here. 

The Bayou Bridge pipeline, the tail end of the Dakota Access pipeline, which threatens land, water, and livelihoods of millions of residents, plants, and animals in Louisiana, has been the ongoing target of a grassroots resistance campaign. At the center of the campaign is the L’eau Est La Vie Camp, which in the last several weeks has launched a slew of actions against the pipeline project. On the morning of April 5th, the group launched a blockade of a key supply yard. They wrote on social media:

Early this morning two Louisiana school teachers carried out a “Crawfish Boil” lock-down action that shut down a key supply yard for the Bayou Bridge Pipeline.

The lock-down lasted for several hours and blocked the entrance of a site that stores the equipment which Energy Transfer Partners needs to carry out construction on wetlands. It was during this action that Cherri Foytlin was targeted and arrested while live streaming. Police then arrested another water protector who was on the scene. All four people have been released, but their legal battle will continue.

In another statement, the two teachers detailed why the took part in the blockade:

“What worries me is the fate of Louisiana children. If we allow the Bayou Bridge pipeline to threaten our food and culture, we will have to question why we are willing to deprive our kids of what has sustained us. Will we really allow an out of state company, Energy Transfer Partners, to drill and splinter away at a crawfish habitat?”

– Sue Prevost

“There are many reasons that the Bayou Bridge Pipeline shouldn’t be built. Destroying our supply of crawfish is one of them. As a local and an educator, I’m aware of the growing decimation of our land and water by the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. I’ve seen it in the basin and it’s a nightmare. Are we really going to allow Energy Transfer Partners to drill and splinter away our fragile ecosystems? Are we really willing to lose our great crawfish population– the center of our food legacy and culture to an out-of-town company when the benefits will go to pad the pockets of out-of-town greed? I thought our governor would have stopped this havoc by now. We can’t afford the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. We can’t afford to lose our crawfish or to be susceptible to the recent catastrophic spillages like the ones in Pennsylvania and in Ohio. We deserve more– especially our kids.”

– Renate Heurich

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LIVE from Calcasieu Parish where Water Protectors are blocking the movement of construction materials. Two teachers are locked down.#DAPL #NoBBPL #KelcyWarren #BayouBridge #ETP #Fractivists #louisiana

Posted by Louisiana Bucket Brigade on Thursday, April 5, 2018

One of those targeted for arrest today was Cherri Foytlin, one of the camp’s indigenous elder’s and leaders. Cherri was simply livestreaming at the time of her arrest, and was clearly targeted (along with three other water protectors) by the police for her role in ongoing organizing against the pipeline. Video of her arrest can be seen below:

BREAKING. Cherri Foytlin, an amazing mother & organizer with the L’eau Est La Vie Camp, was just targeted and arrested by Louisiana police while live streaming an action.

CALL the Calcasieu Parish Sheriffs Office and DEMAND that they release Cherri: 337-491-3715. #NoBayouBridge pic.twitter.com/GRIfZXaODE

— Leau Est La Vie Camp (@NoBayouBridge) April 5, 2018

Foytlin’s arrest comes hot on the heels of the introduction of LA HB727 into the Louisiana House of Representatives. If passed, the bill could further criminalize protesters with ‘conspiring’ to enter onto pipeline construction sites. As with similar proposed laws targeting Black Lives Matter protesters for blocking freeways, this bill attempts to make things that are already crimes even harsher. As Allen Brown and Will Parish wrote in The Intercept:

Louisiana House of Representatives introduced new legislation aimed at criminalizing the activities of groups protesting the extraction, burning, and transport of oil and gas. The bill is similar to a model created by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. Indeed, in the wake of the massive protest movement at Standing Rock, which attempted to prevent completion of the Dakota Access pipeline, at least seven states have introduced or passed “critical infrastructure” legislation. Louisiana’s version comes as opponents of the Bayou Bridge pipeline have ramped up protest activities in the state, staging occupations and blockades aimed at halting construction of the project.

The legislation creates new crimes that would punish groups for “conspiring” to trespass on critical infrastructure sites and prescribes particularly harsh penalties for those whose ideas, if carried out, would disrupt the operations of such infrastructure. The definition of the term critical infrastructure would be amended to include pipelines and pipeline construction sites. The language of the bill reaches far beyond cases of property destruction, and stands to net individuals who do not participate in or condone such activities.

The Louisiana bill, unlike the ALEC model, does not require that any disruption to a facility’s functioning take place for penalties to apply — an individual could face huge fines or prison time without ever having set foot on the property.

Those convicted of “conspiring” to trespass on a pipeline site would be imprisoned for a maximum of five years, fined a maximum of $10,000, or both. If the conspirators’ plan involved disrupting the pipeline’s construction, they would be imprisoned for between six and 20 years, fined a maximum of $250,000, or both.

In the face of this growing repression, support, funds, and solidarity is needed now more than ever. The L’eau Est La Vie Camp has released the following list of ways to help:

– if you haven’t yet, please consider donating to support our resistance: bit.ly/nobbp
– apply to join our Camp: Nobbp.org
– pledge to take action to resist the Bayou Bridge pipeline: http://bit.ly/PledgeToResist
– find a solidarity target and take action: www.NoBayouBridge.global

Follow the battle against the Bayou Bridge pipeline here and here.

Categories: News

Marvel's "Black Panther" and Uncolonized African Sexuality

Truth Out - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 04:00

One of the most exciting aspects of the fictional land of Wakanda in Black Panther is its depiction of Black people sans colonialism's racial hierarchies about desirability. The central love story is revolutionary in its potential for more film depictions of Black sexuality and love free from the historical baggage of hyper-sexualized Black people.

 Disney / Marvel Studios)Florence Kasumba, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, and Lupita Nyong'o in Black Panther. (Photo: Disney / Marvel Studios)

How much do I know about Wakanda? Not a lot, but I'll bet they have really good sex.

When I decided to write about my reaction to Marvel's Black Panther and the nation of Wakanda from my perspective as a first-generation Nigerian immigrant, sex wasn't the first thing to come to mind.

But the more I saw of this hidden nation -- free of the historical scars of colonialism, as well as the movie's unambiguously Black and sexy cast -- the more I realized that one of the most exciting aspects of Wakanda was as a world where Black people were free of the baggage of racial hierarchies about desirability.

Sex and desire often feel like the last taboos within the social justice space, too intertwined with feelings of guilt, self-hate and ambiguity for many people to begin to broach. And while there is a new willingness to dismantle European standards of beauty, there is still a real reluctance to discuss how the shadow of colonialism rises in our intimate relationships.

This reluctance is all too familiar to me.

Growing up, I was raised to be proud, if not borderline arrogant, about my heritage. However, as a child of Nigerian immigrants and grandparents, the deep imprint of colonial rule on the modern African identity was difficult to escape.

Below the layer of pride, the scar tissue of white supremacy was all too visible.

As a child, it materialized in compliments about my medium-brown complexion from relatives, and the monthly ritual of chemical perms. Today, it is seen in the global market for skin lightening -- a practice prevalent throughout Africa, Asia and the Caribbean -- that is projected to grow into a $23 billion industry by 2020.

In recent years, it's reared its head in our romantic interactions online. Indeed, Black women and Asian men are consistently rated on dating sites as less attractive than people of other races and ethnicities.

In popular entertainment, tropes of the Black "welfare queen," the "mammy" and the "Jezebel" are still prominent in depictions of Black female characters. Our own research at The Opportunity Agenda shows that people of color continue to be underrepresented in film and television, and when they are present, are often depicted as violent or criminal, or in minor roles.

The relationship between colonialism, voyeurism and fetishization is old. Sarah Baartman, a Southwestern Africa Khoikhoi woman bought as a slave in the early 19th century and exhibited in "freak shows" in London and Paris, is one of the best-recorded examples of this connection.

According to Columbia University professor of African art Zoë Strother, in her article "Display of the Body Hottentot," Baartman's sexualized depiction "represented a fantasy creature without language or culture, without memory or consciousness, who could never actually threaten the viewer with the sexual power of Venus."

More recently, a 2017 report published by Georgetown University Law School's Center on Poverty and Inequality found that Black girls are viewed by adults as less innocent, in less need of nurturing and more knowledgeable about sex than their white counterparts.

But in Wakanda, there is no voyeur or point of comparison. In Wakanda, T'Challa, the Black Panther, is left frozen by the beauty of Nakia -- an intensity and an affection in sharp contrast to the disregard for Black women shown by his enemy, Erik Killmonger, who discards his nameless Black female lover with ease. Her callous execution midway through the movie encapsulates the feeling of disposability that characterizes the experiences of many Black women in the US.

And while the central love story in the movie was tamer than I'd expected, the intimacy depicted between T'Challa and Nakia was revolutionary, not only in its originality, but in its potential to open the doors for more depictions of Black sexuality and love freed from historical baggage.

Black Panther has given me, and I am sure many other women, a vision of what is still possible, and confirmation of what I already knew: That we are beautiful, and in pressing need of greater visibility.

Categories: News

How Standing Rock Is Leading by Example on Renewable Energy

Truth Out - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 04:00

The protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline may have failed to stop Big Oil for now, but the folks at Standing Rock have taken their fight to other fronts. Water Protectors are taking proactive steps to move the Standing Rock Sioux reservation toward renewable energy and plans are also being proposed to move both North and South Dakota to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

 Andrew Lichtenstein/Getty Images)Giant flood lights set up by a pipeline company and law enforcement illuminate a cloudy winter night at the Oceti Sakowin camp just outside of the Lakota Sioux reservation of Standing Rock, North Dakota, on December 1, 2016. (Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein / Getty Images)

The Trump administration quickly overturned the December 2016 decision by the Army Corps of Engineers to halt the construction of the infamous Dakota Access Pipeline -- almost as quickly as Trump took office. Subsequent challenges in court failed to prevent the pipeline from being completed and going into operation. Rather than concede defeat, Water Protectors have shifted their focus and efforts to battling the oil and coal industry on different fronts.

On the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, the Water Protector camps are no longer standing, but some organizers who lived and organized in those camps are now shaping the movement to shift the reservation away from its dependence on fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.

In 1956, the Standing Rock Sioux sued the Army Corps of Engineers and was promised -- as part of the settlement over the creation of dams on the Missouri River that stole part of the reservation's land and resources -- free electricity for the reservation. Instead, the reservation pays some of the highest rates for electricity in both North and South Dakota. Some residents pay $1,000 a month in electric bills, even as more than 40 percent of individuals on the reservation live below the poverty line.

In order to alleviate these steep electricity bills and the reservation's dependence on electric companies charging high rates for usage, the reservation is working toward creating a mandatory renewable energy standard, where, by 2030, 50 percent of North and South Dakota's energy will come from renewable resources, with a long-term goal of total renewable use. Currently, the majority of electricity in North Dakota is powered by coal.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab's "Disobedience Finalist Award" was given to the Standing Rock Water Protectors in July of 2017. The award is given to responsible, ethical disobedience in US society, and the Water Protectors received a $10,000 cash prize. On their behalf, Phyllis Young, Joseph White Eyes, Jasilyn Charger and LaDonna Bravebull Allard accepted the award. Young and Bravebull Allard called on MIT to develop a partnership to address the issues facing the Standing Rock reservation.

In January 2018, Young, a former council member for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and the coordinator/organizer for Central Oceti Sakowin camp -- the main camp of Water Protectors at Standing Rock -- organized an energy summit on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation attended by several faculty and staff members from Solve MIT, a resource to connect technology innovators with financial partners and other technology experts to implement solutions for specific societal challenges. Shortly after, MIT announced the Solve fellowship with the Oceti Sakowin. Four to six members of the Oceti community will receive grants this year to complete renewable energy projects for the community. Fellows will attend an MIT event in May 2018, and another one in Standing Rock in August 2018.

As Solve MIT begins to identify fellows and projects to help support, the Lakota People's Law Project, a North Dakota-based legal group dedicated to "efforts to reclaim ancestral lands, and to stop all threats to Lakota land and resources," identified SuperGreen Solutions, a small renewable energy group in Bismarck, North Dakota, working to increase energy efficiency and propose renewable energy systems using wind and solar power. The company has already assessed two of eight districts in the reservation to come up with specific proposals for implementing new systems for energy efficiency.

"Tens of millions of dollars can be saved by Standing Rock and millions of pounds of carbon prevented from entering the atmosphere," said Danny Paul Nelson, deputy director of the Lakota People's Law Project.

"Anything we can do to save these communities' resources for social welfare and basic living is a huge benefit from a social justice point of view, but the environmental impact is immense too. There is an opportunity here to set an example for the world -- not just how to protest the creation of fossil fuel infrastructure, but also in how to create renewable energy infrastructure as a response to being bullied by the oil industry, which is how we interpret what happened with [the movement against the pipeline]."

The Lakota People's Law Project is pushing for a petition to implement what's known as a Renewable Portfolio Standard in North and South Dakota, which would mandate a shift in each state to 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. The group is also advocating for other legislation that facilitates the shift toward renewable energy, like the solar access law that would permit residents to install solar energy infrastructure without the burden of regulations preventing them from doing so.

"North and South Dakota have nothing right now in place to facilitate the shift to renewable energy infrastructure. These states are heavily reliant on fossil fuels, even though these other options exist," says Nelson. He noted that Standing Rock can't act in isolation, and statewide legislation would help make Standing Rock's transition easier, as well as elevate awareness of renewable energy throughout North and South Dakota.

"Coal and oil reign supreme in the Dakotas. They have so much power no one even questions them, and people barely even know what solar is. Rather than it being a battle, there is a vacuum of understanding and interest in green energy. Our interest is in stoking vigorous engagement, with Standing Rock providing leadership in making that happen," he said.

Categories: News

Judge Suspends Release of Herman Bell, Elderly Black Panther Jailed 45 Years, Amid Police Pressure

Truth Out - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 04:00

A judge in New York has suspended the release of Herman Bell, a 70-year-old prisoner who has been granted parole after 45 years in prison. Bell was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the killing of two New York City police officers in 1971. At the time, he was a member of the Black Liberation Army and a former Black Panther. Since then, he has mentored thousands of young men while behind bars and kept a clean disciplinary record. State-mandated tests show he would pose the lowest possible risk if he is allowed to re-enter society. In March, the New York Parole Board granted parole for Bell, noting he had expressed remorse and was likely to lead a "law-abiding life." State law requires commissioners to consider such factors, but they've only recently started to comply. On Wednesday, a state judge agreed to hear a challenge from the widow of one of the officers, who says the board violated procedure. A hearing on the petition is set for April 13, just days before Bell's earliest originally scheduled release date. We speak with Robert Boyle, lawyer for Herman Bell, who says the board followed the rules. We are also joined by Jose Saldaña, who was incarcerated in New York until he was released by the parole board earlier this year in January, after 38 years inside. He knew Herman Bell and is now an organizer with the group RAPP, Release Aging People from Prison, who has helped push for parole reform.

Please check back later for full transcript.

Categories: News

Brazil's Popular Ex-President Lula Ordered to Prison After Politically Motivated Trial and Conviction

Truth Out - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 04:00

A judge on Thursday ordered former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to turn himself in to police within 24 hours and begin serving a 12-year sentence for a controversial corruption conviction, effectively removing him from Brazil's presidential election later this year, where he was the front-runner. Lula is a former union leader who served as president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. During that time, he helped lift tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. His supporters say the ruling against him is a continuation of the coup that ousted Lula's ally Dilma Rousseff from power last year. We play excerpts from our recent interview with Lula and get an update from Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and president of Just Foreign Policy, who argues "the investigation is political, and that everything [Judge Moro is] trying to do is political, including the latest order that Lula surrender today."

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today's show in Brazil, where a judge on Thursday ordered former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to turn himself in to police within 24 hours to begin serving a 12-year sentence for a controversial corruption conviction. The Supreme Court's rejection of Lula's bid to stay out of jail while he appeals effectively removes him from Brazil's presidential election later this year, where he was the front-runner.

Lula is a former union leader who served as president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. During that time, he helped lift tens of millions of Brazilians out of poverty. His supporters say the ruling against him is a continuation of the coup that ousted Lula's ally, President Dilma Rousseff, from power last year. On Thursday, Rousseff continued to defend Lula.

DILMA ROUSSEFF: [translated] They want to turn off Brazil's history, to gloss over what we did the last 13 years in our terms in office.

AMY GOODMAN: Early today, Lula appeared at his party's headquarters and briefly waved to his supporters, but made no comment. During an interview on Democracy Now! last month, President Lula said his prosecution is part of an attempt to criminalize the Workers' Party.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] We are awaiting the accusers, for the accusers to show at least some piece of evidence that indicates that I committed any crime during the period that I was in the presidency. Now, what is behind that is the attempt to criminalize my political party. What is behind that is the interest in a part of the political elite of Brazil, together with a part of the press, reinforced by the role of the judiciary, in preventing Lula from becoming a candidate in the 2018 elections.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we go to Washington, D.C., for an update from Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and president of Just Foreign Policy. Weisbrot's new book is called Failed: What the Experts Got Wrong About the Global Economy.

Mark Weisbrot, first, can you talk about -- respond to the Supreme Court ruling, explain what it is and what this means if Lula were to go to jail today.

MARK WEISBROT: Yes, well, the Supreme Court ruled that he could be imprisoned while his appeals are pending, even though the constitution says pretty clearly that no one will be considered guilty until all their appeals have been exhausted. So, and then, of course, with amazing speed, the trial judge -- it went back to the lower court and then the trial judge, within hours, yesterday. And the trial judge ordered that he be -- he surrender to authorities today by 5:00 Brazilian time.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain this case?

MARK WEISBROT: Yes. Well, I mean, the biggest thing is that he was convicted without material evidence. So, he's accused -- Lula was accused of accepting a bribe in the form of remodeling of an apartment. And the big problem -- and Lula mentioned this in his interview on Democracy Now!, which I think was really, really important. I hope people read that transcript, because he explained a lot of this. But, basically, they didn't have material evidence that he ever accepted this apartment, that he ever stayed in it, that he ever -- he didn't have title to it. In fact, he didn't, any of those things.

And the evidence that they had was really just one witness, who was a construction company executive who had already pled guilty and was plea bargaining. And he had his sentence reduced from something like 16 to two years, in an exchange for implicating Lula. And, in fact, according to press reports in Brazil, in Folha de São Paulo, he actually -- they actually cut off his plea bargaining, because he originally told a story similar to Lula's, and they cut off his plea bargaining until he said what they wanted to hear -- that is, implicated Lula. And that's the evidence they have for the so-called crime.

And, you know, it's kind of misreported in the press, because they said he was convicted of taking a bribe and money laundering, but that's all the same thing. The money laundering just means that he took -- supposedly took this apartment instead of cash.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn back to Lula. He was speaking last month on Democracy Now!, describing the federal judge presiding over his case, Judge Sérgio Moro.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] Now, if my innocence is proven, then Judge Moro should be removed from his position, because you can't have a judge who is lying in the judgment and pronouncing as guilty someone who he knows is innocent. He knows that it's not my apartment. He knows that I didn't buy it. He knows that I didn't pay anything. He knows that I never went there. He knows that I don't have money from Petrobras. The thing is that because he subordinated himself to the media, I said, in the first hearing with him, "You are not in a position to acquit me, because the lies have gone too far." And the disgrace is that the one who does the first lie continues lying and lying and lying to justify the first lie. And I am going to prove that he has been lying.

AMY GOODMAN: Mark Weisbrot, can you respond?

MARK WEISBROT: Yes. I think this is very important, because, you know, you don't see this, really, in the -- you can search the media coverage. You almost never see anything where the evidence of the case is discussed, even though it's all on the web -- there's a 238-page sentencing document from this judge that discusses all the evidence and all the things that Lula just mentioned and I just mentioned -- and they just treat it as though it's a fact, every -- you know, he's guilty, and that's all there is to it. So I think that's very important.

And also, the judge's -- Judge Sérgio Moro's animus is very evident, his prejudice. For example, he had to apologize to the Supreme Court for having released illegal wiretaps of Lula's conversations with Dilma and with his lawyer and his family, and released this to the public. And he did other things, as well, to try and try the case in the media -- for example, having Lula arrested at his home with a lot of police, you know, where he had always volunteered for questioning. There was no doubt that he was available for questioning. And they had to take him away in front of the cameras and notify the media in advance. So, there are so many things that he did that show that he really is political, that the investigation is political, and that everything he's trying to do is political, including the latest order that Lula surrender today.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to Lula speaking on Democracy Now!, when I asked him about the press acting as prosecutor in his case.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] I was president for eight years. Dilma was president for four years. And for 12 years, all the press did was to try to destroy my image and her image and the image of my party. I have more negative subject matter about me in the leading television news program of Brazil than all of the presidents in the whole history of Brazil. In other words, it's a daily attempt to massacre me, to tell untruths about Lula, about Lula's family. And the only weapon that I have is to confront them. And they're irritated, because after they massacred me for four years, any opinion poll by any polling institute showed that Lula was going win the elections in Brazil.

AMY GOODMAN: During my interview with Lula last month, I asked him if he would consider stepping aside, running for president, if his case did not go well in the Supreme Court.

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] First of all, Amy, I'm very optimistic, very optimistic. Now, if that were to happen and I was not able -- were not able to be a candidate, if my name is not on the ballot, I think that the party would call a convention and discuss what to do. I am going to require that and call for justice to be done in the country.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that was President Lula speaking on Democracy Now! just a few weeks ago. Mark Weisbrot, what will happen now? Do you expect Lula to turn himself in today? And what does this mean for this presidential race in Brazil, one of the largest countries in the world?

MARK WEISBROT: Yes, first, I do want to say how important what he said about the media is. I mean, if we had a media like this in the United States, Barack Obama never would have been elected, because most of the country would have believed he was Muslim and not born in the United States. And so, this is the kind of media you have there. And the impeachment of Dilma, for example, would never, I don't think, have happened without this kind of constant barrage of media against both of those leaders and against the Workers' Party.

So I don't know what he's going -- I mean, I assume he's going to do what he said, and surrender to the authorities. Now, we don't really know what's going to happen from there. He's going to -- he said he's going to continue to run for president. Theoretically, he could even win from jail. That's not likely, because there's another court, having to do with the electoral decision, that would probably say that he -- or possibly say -- I think probably say that he isn't eligible to run. I mean, the whole point of this is to keep him from running, because he is the front runner and he would probably win in October. And that's largely because of what, you know, he and the Workers' Party accomplished in their 14 years in power. And that's what really this is all about. I mean, it's about the traditional elite taking what they couldn't win at the ballot box for 14 years.

So, we'll see what happens. I don't think it's over yet, because he can -- you know, he's going to -- I mean, there's millions and millions of people in Brazil who -- in fact, there was a poll last year that said 41 percent of the public thought he was being railroaded by the media and the judicial system. And so, they will see him as a political prisoner, and they will see any election that's held without him in October as illegitimate. So, I think there's going to be a continued fight, either to elect him or, if that's not possible, to elect someone else from the Workers' Party.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Mark, I asked Lula about the candidate polling second in Brazil's election, Jair Bolsonaro, the far-right-wing congressman, former soldier, who's been called the "Brazilian Trump."

LUIZ INÁCIO LULA DA SILVA: [translated] He is a member of the federal Congress. He was an Army captain in the Brazilian Army. The information that we have is that he was expelled from the Brazilian army. And his behavior is far-right-wing, fascist. He is very much prejudiced against women, against blacks, against indigenous persons, against human rights. He believes that everything can be resolved with violence. So, I don't think he has a future in Brazilian politics.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Mark Weisbrot, as we wrap up, if you can comment on Bolsonaro and also the current president, Michel Temer, and any role he may be playing in all of this?

MARK WEISBROT: Well, this is a real threat, not only of Bolsonaro himself, but also the violence that has -- you know, has been happening and threatened, as you reported and Lula talked about in his interview. You had the assassination on March 17th of Marielle Franco, the city councilor and Afro-Brazilian activist in Rio. On March 27th, Lula's caravan was shot at. And you have two Army officers, just in the last few days, saying very threatening things, the first one saying that if Lula were eventually elected, there would have to be some kind of military intervention, and then the head of the armed forces appearing to endorse that by saying, the day before the Supreme Court decision, that the -- you know, he made this speech against impunity, indicating, you know, which side the military was on in this case, and may have influenced the Supreme Court. So you have a lot of things that bring to mind the 1964 coup and the dictatorship that lasted until the late '80s. It's a very threatening and very dangerous situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Mark Weisbrot, of course, we'll continue to follow it. I want to thank you for being with us, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and president of Just Foreign Policy. His new book, Failed: What the "Experts" Got Wrong About the Global Economy. This is Democracy Now! If you want to see our full hour with Lula, with the former president of Brazil, you can go to democracynow.org.

When we come back, the investigative reporter who exposed the first lie about military intervention during the Trump era. She's winning a George Polk Award today. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: Cecil Taylor performing solo in 1984. The visionary jazz pianist and composer died Thursday in New York at the age of 89. The jazz magazine DownBeat once wrote, "In a more embracing cultural climate, [Cecil] Taylor … would stand a pivotal link in a musical time-line: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Bartok, Tatum, Taylor."

Categories: News

Arizona Teachers Strike Is the Answer to Years of Tax Cuts and Neglect of Education

Truth Out - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 04:00
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Arizona teachers are considering a strike, following the recent West Virginia and now Oklahoma and Kentucky examples, if they don't receive their requested 20 percent pay raise. 

An official strike date hasn't been set, but the teachers, following the playbooks from West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, have staged multiple protests in individual districts and at the state capitol in Phoenix for the last five weeks, using the #RedforEd hashtag on Twitter to announce and document their protests. At the capitol this Wednesday, one group of teachers gave the legislature a progress report, and there are more "walk-ins," with teachers marching into their school buildings to demand better pay.  

Teachers... what are you going to do if our Legislature doesn’t give you the salary and respect you deserve? #RedForEd pic.twitter.com/Vzn5P2LPfj

— Steve Weichert (@SteveWeichert) March 29, 2018

The organizing was fueled by a grassroots energy so strong, Thomas noted, it "caught everyone off guard." As in Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kentucky, they've been organizing through Facebook groups (which grew to 40,000 members in just three weeks, according to Thomas).

"We have the worst pay in the nation for our teachers," he continued, but pay is just the tip of the iceberg. Arizona teachers have been struggling with years of divestment from Republican governors who slashed education funding to pay for tax cuts.

Thomas dates the worst of Arizona's tax cuts back to the reaction to the 2008 Great Recession. "Before the recession, we were spending $1,000 more a student on supplies, teacher salaries and staff hirings and building repair, all of the money that goes into that."

Instead of investing in infrastructure and social services to spur post-Great Recession economic activity, Arizona's Republican governor at the time, Jan Brewer, voted for a package of corporate tax cuts, which she admitted in 2017 may have been too severe. She told the Arizona Capitol Times,

"Of course, it was a little bit too aggressive." The result, Brewer said, has been a reduction in revenues needed for state services. "Sooner or later, you have to pay the fiddler," she said.

Current Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, also a Republican, doesn't agree. Just days ago he declined to give teachers the 20 percent raise they asked for, and also vowed, as the Arizona Daily Sun reported, "to reverse any of the hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax cuts that have kicked in since he took office," some of which were signed when Brewer was still in office. "Each $100 million that was lost would translate to a 3 percent pay hike for teachers."

The strikes are contagious. It's been only a few weeks since West Virginia teachers went on strike, but earlier this week, Oklahoma teachers made good on the promises union organizers Alicia Priest and Mary Best explained to AlterNet in March -- to strike if their request for an approximately $10,000 pay raise was not met. They did so following the passage of a bill that gave them only $6,000 of the $10,000 they demanded, after nearly a decade without any raises.

In Kentucky, too, teachers protested at the state capitol in Frankfort, against sweeping cuts to their pensions that put teachers' hopes for retirement in peril. Schools in at least 25 counties shut down last Friday, the Huffington Post reported, with teachers calling in sick or absent, and continued their walkout this week.

Writing about the red-state teacher revolt in the Washington Post, Paul Waldman explains that "Oklahoma is a particularly pure example of conservative philosophy." Since 1992, "state law mandates a 75 percent supermajority in both houses of the legislature to raise taxes." The rule was in response to a 1990 tax increase that was specifically for school funding. Waldman argues that this "has led them to where they are today, with four-day school weeks, cold buildings and decades-old textbooks."

When teachers bring these concerns to state legislatures, they're met with disdain. "Then [they] hold out empty pockets, saying, well, we can't fund education -- when they deliberately, annually cut taxes," Thomas said. "That's going to make the next year's funding even harder."

Thomas fears a teacher exodus to surrounding, better-paying states is coming. He explained, "Teachers in Arizona can go to any surrounding state and get a significant raise... I believe both Utah and Colorado are about a $10,000 raise. New Mexico, on average, pays their teachers $15,000 more than Arizona teachers are paid."

"We need a billion-dollar reinvestment just to get back where we were 10 years ago," Thomas continued, explaining why teachers are asking for a 20 percent raise. "That's the part that the public struggles with because you almost can't believe a governor or a legislature would let... students and schools face such peril."

Strikes or walkouts in four states and counting might do something to change that. 

Categories: News

Just a Small Bug

Truth Out - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 04:00
Categories: News

Quit Rates Jump to 17 Year High in March

Truth Out - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 04:00

The percentage of unemployment due to people who voluntarily quit their jobs jumped to 13.1 percent in March, the highest level since May of 2001. This statistic is a good measure of workers' confidence in the labor market, since it means that they are prepared to leave a job even before they have new one lined up. Until this month, the quit rate had been unusually low (mostly under 11.0 percent) given the levels of unemployment we were seeing. The March level is more consistent with an unemployment rate near 4.0 percent.

This is also coinciding with some evidence of an uptick in wage growth. While the year-over-year rate was just 2.7 percent, the annualized rate, compared the average for the last three months (January, February, and March) with the prior three months (October, November, and December), was 3.2 percent. This suggests that workers may finally be getting back some of the share of income they lost to profits in the Great Recession.

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Categories: News

Trump Attempts to Win Back Ann Coulter With Vicious Attacks on Immigrants

Truth Out - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 04:00

 Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)Donald Trump boards Air Force One at Andrews Air Force base on April 5, 2018, near Washington, DC. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)

Everyone has noticed by now that Donald Trump is no longer even attempting to stick with the script, evidently feeling that he's been ill-served by people who observe political norms and common definitions of what it is to be a president of the United States. He's starting trade wars, declaring an abrupt withdrawal from Syria and attacking businessmen who also own newspapers he wants to quash. He's been animated and energized by this newfound freedom to "tell it like it is" as he did on Thursday at a tax forum in West Virginia, where he claimed to be the first president in 40 years to deliver on taxes because only he had the guts to demand "tax cuts" instead of tax reform.

As is now the required ritual at any meeting where Trump appears, other speakers at the forum dutifully flattered and praised him. One attendee was nearly crying as she thanked him for the tax cuts, saying, "Thank you for listening to us. Thank you for fighting for us."

But despite this demonstration of loyalty and commitment, Trump is showing all the signs of a man who senses that his lover is unhappy with him. He's bringing home gifts and flowers to show how much he cares. He's hearing from friends that he's been a disappointment because he hasn't fulfilled that yuuuge promise he made when they were courting, the one that sealed the deal. He hasn't built that big beautiful wall.

Ann Coulter is one of the only 45 people Trump follows on twitter and she retweeted this so he would see it:

https://t.co/SRkswLF3zd

— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) April 3, 2018

Radio host Mark Levin went ballistic:

Build the damn wall! You got the House. You got the Senate. You got the presidency. You got the bureaucracy. The art of the deal, screw the art of the deal. It should be the art of the victory. The art of victory. It's time to roll Schumer. It's time to roll the Democrats.

There is ample reporting that Trump is having frequent dinner parties with his Fox News kitchen cabinet, both down in Mar-a-Lago and at the White House, and is hearing personally from the likes of Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity that the base is restless.

Trump's problem is that Congress didn't fund his wall beyond a "mere" $1.6 billion, which he considers an insult, and which his followers have been convinced is a capitulation on his part. They're right about that. The White House was heavily involved in all the negotiations and agreed to the numbers.  Evidently the master negotiator was busy tweeting and didn't have time to do the kind of magical arm-twisting that he promised makes such deals "easy."

He seemed to be taken by surprise when he tuned in his top political advisory panel on "Fox & Friends" on the morning of the bill-signing ceremony and learned that they were not happy. (He briefly threatened to veto the bill and single-handedly shut down the government, but was talked out of it.) He's been on a tear ever since, trying to appease those folks with some of that old-time demagoguery and the promise of bringing down the hammer on immigrants in some other satisfying way.

At first he indicated that he'd just have the military build the wall. He seems to think the federal budget is like the books at his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City. where when he came up short to pay the bills he could just shift cash around to keep up appearances. Or maybe he figures the military budget is now so bloated that it's got billions just sitting around gathering dust, which may be true. Unfortunately, he doesn't control the books or sign the checks in the federal budget. So he'd have to get congressional approval for such a scheme, which that doesn't look likely.

He fulminated about it over the weekend and really got going after the Sunday "Fox & Friends" crew discussed an annual "caravan" of migrants from Central America. These are people seeking political asylum, for the most part, who make the trek to the border through Mexico to draw attention to their plight and travel in the safety of the spotlight. The Fox hosts interviewed Brandon Judd, president of the Border Patrol Council, who claimed these migrants would all be released into the United States, endangering decent people everywhere:

They’re going to wait for a immigration reform, and they’re going to create havoc and chaos. I mean, how many times do we have to hear stories of United States citizens being killed by people that are here illegally before we actually do something?”

Trump's flurry of angry tweets about immigrants flowing over the border to "take advantage of DACA" (which makes no sense since you had to be in the country before 2011 to qualify) was obviously inspired by his commentary, including his repeated insistence that the Senate should end the filibuster to fix the problem. (He has apparently forgotten that he couldn't even get a bare majority in the Senate, because so many Republicans refused to sign on to his immigration plan.)

None of this appeased the president's right-wing critics. But when he started talking about sending troops to the border, they got excited:

Are they going to shoot the illegals? Just standing there doesn't do a thing. We need to do what Israel does: immediate detention and removal. https://t.co/byXxDbG2po

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) April 4, 2018

Trump has been going on about changing the laws to make it easier to deport people so it's fair to assume he and Coulter are on the same wavelength there.

At the tax event in West Virginia on Thursday, the president threw away his script about the tax cuts and went on a long xenophobic rant, once again evoking his notorious announcement speech in which he claimed that Mexican immigrants were rapists and criminals. He once again made lurid remarks about girls being "cut up" by MS-13 gang members. It's an image he has disturbingly evoked in other contexts, including a creepy impression of the thug in the 1970s movie "Death Wish" saying. "I'm gonna cut you up." He once again claimed that in California undocumented immigrants vote by the millions and the state is "guarding their records," another pathetic attempt to imply that he actually won the popular vote.

Referencing that awful announcement speech, Trump claimed he'd just learned that the caravan in Mexico was full of rapists, saying, "Women are raped at levels never seen before." Nobody knows where he got that from: He just blurted it out. It may have been the ugliest and most xenophobic speech he's given since the beginning of his 2016 campaign, a rambling assault on foreigners, immigrants and the states where many of them live. It was nauseating.

It's obvious Trump is worried about this mini-rebellion on the right. It remains to be seen whether sending some National Guard troops to the border (a largely symbolic move) and this kind of crude demagoguery will quell it. If not, we could be in for a messy fight between Trump and his followers. The losers, as always, will be immigrants and refugees.

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Categories: News

Court Rules EPA Unlawfully Delayed Environmental Racism Investigations for Decades

Truth Out - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 04:00

Father Phil Schmitter and other advocates from a predominately Black neighborhood in Flint, Michigan filed a civil rights complaint with the EPA more than 20 years before the city became a symbol of environmental racism. The EPA finally completed its investigation into the complaint last year, and only after environmental justice groups took the agency to federal court.

 Brittany Greeson / For The Washington Post via Getty Images)Darlene McClendon, 62, at her home in Flint, Michigan, on October 11, 2016. (Photo: Brittany Greeson / For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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A federal court ruled this week that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated the Civil Rights Act by delaying investigations into environmental discrimination complaints for years, even decades. For plaintiff Phil Schmitter, a priest and social justice activist from Flint, Michigan, the ruling is a bittersweet victory that was a long time coming.

Schmitter's story begins in the early 1990s, long before drinking water contaminated with dangerous levels of lead would turn Flint into an international symbol of environmental racism. At the time, Schmitter and other advocates living in a predominantly Black neighborhood on the outskirts of Flint were fighting a proposal to build a scrap wood incinerator nearby.

In October of 1994, Michigan state regulators arrived with armed guards at a school in Schmitter's neighborhood to hold a hearing on a pollution permit for the incinerator. Schmitter and other attendees were shocked: Gun-wielding guards were nowhere to be seen at previous hearings held hours away in Lansing. Did they bring the uniformed guards to Flint because residents opposing the incinerator were Black?

"That's very intimidating [to say], 'Hey, come tell us what your concerns are,' and there are these armed people here," Schmitter told Truthout in an interview.

Reams of data show that sources of industrial pollution are more likely to be located near low-income communities and neighborhoods of color.

EPA investigators would later note that the hearing in Flint was abruptly adjourned before several community members had a chance to testify. In fact, hearing voices from the Black community in Flint did not appear to be a priority for the state environmental commission. One of the previous hearings in Lansing dragged on late into the night as regulators considered permits for other projects first, and advocates from the Flint neighborhood who would later live in the shadow of the incinerator, waited hours to speak their piece after driving across the state to get there.

Two Black state lawmakers had asked to speak to regulators in advance of the earlier hearing in Lansing because a scheduling delay had made it difficult for them to arrive in time to speak, but those requests were denied. One lawmaker was only able to make comments to regulators late in the evening after traveling 120 miles. However, a white lawmaker interrupted the meeting and was allowed to make remarks, even as the commission considered postponing the portion of the hearing focused on the incinerator to another date.

"As a white man, I could see that Black people were being treated in a very different way than white people, and if that's not racism, then I don't know what is," said Schmitter, who had lived in public housing with local residents after moving to the area.

Waiting Decades for Justice

Schmitter and other activists filed two complaints with the EPA in the early 1990s, some of the first filed with the agency's fledgling civil rights office. The complaints argued that Michigan's environmental quality office had discriminated against local residents, and the decision to build the incinerator in their neighborhood followed a pattern of placing incinerators and other hazardous facilities in lower-income communities of color.

The EPA agreed to investigate their initial complaint in 1995, but that did not prevent the incinerators from going into operation months later. The facility burned wood from demolished buildings to generate electricity and spewed at least 2.2 tons of lead from paint found on the scrap wood into the air each year, according to legal records. As time passed, the EPA would designate the incinerator a "significant violator" for spewing pollution.

The EPA has only made a formal finding of discrimination twice.

The Flint complaint was not resolved until last year, and only after Schmitter and plaintiffs from four other communities filed a lawsuit against the EPA in 2015 for failing to complete investigations into civil rights complaints filed over the past two decades. By then, lead leaching from corroding pipes in Flint's municipal drinking water system had created a full-blown environmental crisis in the working class city.

Schmitter was in his late 40s when the first complaint was filed. He is now 72, and the three other advocates who signed on to the complaint have passed away.

"I could not imagine that there would still be a problem now and people wouldn't do what they are supposed to do," Schmitter said.

A Longstanding Pattern of Discrimination

For environmental justice advocates, Schmitter's story is part of a longstanding pattern at the EPA. Reams of data show that sources of industrial pollution are more likely to be located near low-income communities and neighborhoods of color, and Black and Latinx Americans often bear the brunt of toxic accidents and emissions. However, convincing the EPA to do something about this pattern of discrimination has proven very difficult.

Since the 1990s, advocates from these communities have filed more than 200 complaints with the EPA's civil rights office, alleging discrimination. However, the vast majority were rejected or dismissed, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Others, like the Flint complaint, seemed to simply fall through the cracks, remaining unresolved for years.

Out of all of these complaints, the EPA has only made a formal finding of discrimination twice. Those two findings came only in recent years, as the agency came under increasing scrutiny from environmental activists and pledged to improve the performance of its civil rights office. Other cases have resulted in agreements with state regulatory agencies to improve their public comment and non-discrimination programs, but no violations of federal law were declared.

One of the EPA's two findings of blatant discrimination was in the Flint incinerator case, which the EPA closed in January 2017 after 22 years. In a 35-page letter to Schmitter, the EPA said it had determined that Michigan's state environmental office had indeed discriminated against Black Flint residents who had opposed the incinerator during the public hearing process in the mid-1990s.

However, the EPA declined to say that air pollution from the incinerator had a "disparate impact" on the nearby Flint neighborhood Schmitter spent years fighting to protect, because emissions generally fell within levels allowed by the state's air pollution permit.

Jonathan Smith, an attorney with Earthjustice who helped bring the lawsuit against the EPA, said the EPA's determination that pollution from the incinerator did not have a discriminatory impact on the nearby community reveals a "longstanding problem" with how the agency investigates civil rights complaints.

"Pollution from a facility is still harmful regardless of whether it's within the permit limits," Smith told Truthout.

Smith said that when the EPA does agree to investigate environmental racism, it tends to focus on permits and specific scientific data rather than the broader socioeconomic implications of allowing multiple polluters to operate near poor neighborhoods of color in the first place. Residents of Flint already had multiple sources of pollution to contend with when the incinerator arrived, but the EPA only focused on pollution from the incinerator itself, not the cumulative impacts of placing it near other sources.

Smith said the emphasis on pollution permits allows the EPA to approach civil rights differently from other federal agencies and focus on individual facilities, rather than recognizing all the pollution a neighborhood must deal with. Environmental permits by design allow certain levels of pollution into the air and water that can be monitored by special equipment. By comparison, the Department of Education does not maintain predetermined levels of segregation that are deemed acceptable in public schools, for example.

Additionally, Smith said, a lack of staffing and funding at the EPA's civil rights office is a "perennial concern."

"I think if there were more institutional resources, a lot of handling of complaints could be done in a timely and thorough manner, which would be beneficial to communities across the country," Smith said.

A spokesperson for the EPA's civil rights office did not respond to a request for comment from Truthout by the time this article was published.

While the federal court in California that handed down the ruling against the EPA this week avoided making judgments on the results of the agency's civil rights investigations, it clearly agreed with the plaintiffs that the agency had violated federal law by missing statutory deadlines for completing several investigations by decades.

Schmitter considers the ruling a win, but he wishes the EPA would have just done its job in the first place. That's what he expected when he first filed the complaint over two decades ago, an assumption he now considers naïve.

However, Schmitter is not stopping now: The next step, he says, is to work with the EPA and Michigan's regulators to make sure the rights of Flint residents -- and environmental justice communities across the country -- are never ignored again. In the wake of its findings related to Schmitter's complaint and the Flint water crisis, the EPA is currently working with Michigan environmental regulators to reform their non-discrimination programs.

"This is a huge victory, but with all of the different places around the country that are being ignored on the state level, [the government] is just not helping to have a decent environment for people of color," Schmitter said.

Categories: News

Educated Hope in Dark Times: The Challenge of the Educator-Artist as a Public Intellectual

Truth Out - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 04:00

Increasingly, neoliberal regimes across Europe and North America have waged a major assault on critical thinking and the educational spheres in which they take place, but this also applies to creative spaces. Artistic production can change how people view the world, and that pedagogy can be dangerous to the status quo neoliberalism seeks to maintain.

 Hero Images / Getty Images)(Photo: Hero Images / Getty Images)

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Increasingly, neoliberal regimes across Europe and North America have waged a major assault on critical pedagogy, public pedagogy, and the public spheres in which they take place. For instance, public and higher education are being defunded, turned into accountability factories, and now largely serve as adjuncts of an instrumental logic that mimics the values of the market. But, of course, this is not only true for spaces in which formal schooling takes place, it is also true for those public spheres and cultural apparatuses actively engaged in producing knowledge, values, subjectivities, and identities through a range of media and sites. This applies to a range of creative spaces including art galleries, museums, diverse sites that make up screen culture, and various elements of mainstream media.[1] What the apostles of neoliberalism have learned is that artistic production and its modes of public pedagogy can change how people view the world, and that pedagogy can be dangerous because it holds the potential for not only creating critically engaged students, intellectuals, and artists but can strengthen and expand the capacity of the imagination to think otherwise in order to act otherwise, hold power accountable, and imagine the unimaginable.

Reclaiming pedagogy as a form of educated and militant hope begins with the crucial recognition that education is not solely about job training and the production of ethically challenged entrepreneurial subjects and that artistic production does not only have to serve market interests, but are also about matters of civic engagement and literacy, critical thinking, and the capacity for democratic agency, action, and change. It is also inextricably connected to the related issues of power, inclusion, and social responsibility.[2] If young people, artists, and other cultural workers are to develop a deep respect for others, a keen sense of the common good, as well as an informed notion of community engagement, pedagogy must be viewed as a cultural, political, and moral force that provides the knowledge, values, and social relations to make such democratic practices possible. In this instance, pedagogy needs to be rigorous, self-reflective, and committed not to the dead zone of instrumental rationality but to the practice of freedom and liberation for the most vulnerable and oppressed, to a critical sensibility capable of advancing the parameters of knowledge, addressing crucial social issues, and connecting private troubles into public issues. Any viable notion of critical pedagogy must overcome the image of education as purely instrumental, as dead zones of the imagination, and sites of oppressive discipline and imposed conformity.

Pedagogies of repression do more than impose punishing forms of discipline on students and deaden their ability to think critically, they also further a modern-day pandemic of loneliness and alienation. Such pedagogies emphasize aggressive competition, unchecked individualism, and cancel out empathy for an exaggerated notion of self-interest. Solidarity and sharing are the enemy of these pedagogical practices, which are driven by a withdrawal from sustaining public values, trust, and goods and serve largely to cancel out a democratic future for young people. This poses a particular challenge for educators and other cultural workers who want to take up the role of engaged public intellectuals because it speaks less to the role of the intellectual as a celebrity than it does to the kind of pedagogical work in which they engage.

To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

At stake here is the need for artists, educators, and others to create pedagogical practices that create militant dreamers, people capable of envisioning a more just and democratic world and are willing to struggle for it. In this instance, pedagogy becomes not only central to politics but also a practice dedicated to creating a sense of belonging, community, empathy, and practices that address changing the way people think and navigate conflicts emotionally -- practices that awaken passion and energize forms of identification that speak to the conditions in which people find themselves. In the shark-like world of neoliberal-driven values, excessive competition, uncertainty, and deep-seated fears of the other, there is no room for empathetic conversations that focus on the common good, democratic values, or the pedagogical conditions that would further critical dialogue and the potential for students to learn how to hold power accountable.

Domination is at its most powerful when its mechanisms of control and subjugation hide in the discourses of common sense, and its elements of power are made to appear invisible. Public intellectuals can take up the challenge of not only relating their specialties and modes of cultural production to the intricacies of everyday life but also to rethinking how politics works, and how power is central to such a task. Bruce Robbins articulates the challenge well in both his defense of the intellectual and his reference to how other theorists such as Michel Foucault provide a model for such work. He writes:

But I also thought that intellectuals should be trying, like Foucault, to relate our specialized knowledge to things in general. We could not just become activists focused on particular struggles or editors striving to help little magazines make ends meet. We also had a different kind of role to play: thinking hard, as Foucault did, about how best to understand the ways power worked in our time. Foucault, like Sartre and Sontag and Said, was an intellectual, even at some points despite himself. He helped us understand the world in newly critical and imaginative ways. He offered us new lines of reasoning while also engaging in activism and political position-taking. Why, then, is there so much discomfort with using the term "intellectual" as an honorific?[3]

But power is not just a theoretical abstraction, it shapes the spaces in which everyday life takes place and touches peoples' lives at multiple registers, all of which represent in part a struggle over their identities, values, and views of others and the larger world. Critical pedagogy must be meaningful in order to be critical and transformative. That is, it should be cosmopolitan and imaginative -- a public affirming pedagogy that demands a critical and engaged interaction with the world we live in, mediated by a responsibility for challenging structures of domination and for alleviating human suffering. This is a pedagogy that addresses the needs of multiple publics. As an ethical and political practice, a public pedagogy of wakefulness rejects modes of education removed from political or social concerns, divorced from history and matters of injury and injustice. This is a pedagogy that includes "lifting complex ideas into the public space," recognizing human injury inside and outside of the academy and using theory as a form of criticism to change things.[4] This is a pedagogy in which artists, educators, and other cultural workers are neither afraid of controversy nor a willingness to make connections between private issues and broader elements of society's problems that are otherwise hidden. Nor are they afraid of using their work to address the challenges of the day.

As the practice of freedom, critical pedagogy arises from the conviction that artists, educators and other cultural workers have a responsibility to unsettle power, trouble consensus, and challenge common sense. This is a view of pedagogy that should disturb, inspire, and energize a vast array of individuals and publics. Critical pedagogy comes with the responsibility to view intellectual and artistic work as public, assuming a duty to enter into the public sphere unafraid to take positions and generate controversy, functioning as moral witnesses, raising political awareness, making connections to those elements of power and politics often hidden from public view, and reminding "the audience of the moral questions that may be hidden in the clamor and din of the public debate."[5]

Pedagogy is not a method but a moral and political practice, one that recognizes the relationship between knowledge and power, and at the same time realizes that central to all pedagogical practices is a struggle over agency, power, politics, and the formative cultures that make a radical democracy possible. This view of pedagogy does not mould, but inspires, and at the same time it is directive, capable of imagining a better world, the unfinished nature of agency, and the need to consistently reimagine a democracy that is never finished. In this sense, critical pedagogy is a form of educated hope committed to producing young people capable and willing to expand and deepen their sense of themselves, to think the "world" critically, "to imagine something other than their own well-being," to serve the public good, take risks, and struggle for a substantive democracy that is now in a state of acute crisis as the dark clouds of totalitarianism are increasingly threatening to destroy democracy itself on a global scale.[6]

Pedagogy is always the outcome of struggles, especially in terms of how pedagogical practices produce particular notions of citizenship and an inclusive democracy. Pedagogy looms large in this instance not as a technique or a prioriset of methods but as a political and moral practice. As a political practice, pedagogy illuminates the relationship among power, knowledge, and ideology, while self-consciously, if not self-critically, recognizing the role it plays as a deliberate attempt to influence how and what knowledge and identities are produced within particular sets of social relations. As a moral practice, pedagogy recognizes that what cultural workers, artists, activists, media workers and others teach cannot be abstracted from what it means to invest in public life, presuppose some notion of the future, or locate oneself in a public discourse.

The moral implications of pedagogy also suggest that our responsibilities as cultural workers cannot be separated from the consequences of the knowledge we produce, the social relations we legitimate, and the ideologies and identities we offer up to students. Refusing to decouple politics from pedagogy means, in part, that teaching in classrooms or in any other public sphere should not only simply honor the experiences people bring to such sites, including the classroom, but should also connect their experiences to specific problems that emanate from the material contexts of their everyday life. Pedagogy in this sense becomes performative in that it is not merely about deconstructing texts but about situating politics itself within a broader set of relations that addresses what it might mean to create modes of individual and social agency that enables rather than shuts down democratic values, practices, and social relations. Such a project recognizes not only the political nature of pedagogy, but also situates it within a call for artists, intellectuals, and others to assume responsibility for their actions, to link their teachings to those moral principles that allow us to do something about human suffering, as Susan Sontag once suggested.[7] Part of this task necessitates that cultural workers anchor their own work, however diverse, in a radical project that seriously engages the promise of an unrealized democracy against its really existing and radically incomplete forms. Of crucial importance to such a project is rejecting the assumption that theory can understand social problems without contesting their appearance in public life. Yet, any viable cultural politics needs a socially committed notion of injustice if we are to take seriously what it means to fight for the idea of good society. I think Zygmunt Bauman is right in arguing that "If there is no room for the idea of wrong society, there is hardly much chance for the idea of good society to be born, let alone make waves."[8]

Artists and other cultural workers should consider being more forceful, if not committed, to linking their overall politics to modes of critique and collective action that address the presupposition that democratic societies are never too just or just enough, and such a recognition means that a society must constantly nurture the possibilities for self-critique, collective agency, and forms of citizenship in which people play a fundamental role in critically discussing, administrating and shaping the material relations of power and ideological forces that bear down on their everyday lives. At stake here is the task, as Jacques Derrida insists, of viewing the project of democracy as a promise, a possibility rooted in an ongoing struggle for economic, cultural, and social justice.[9] Democracy in this instance is not a sutured or formalistic regime, it is the site of struggle itself. The struggle over creating an inclusive and just democracy can take many forms, offers no political guarantees, and provides an important normative dimension to politics as an ongoing process of democratization that never ends. Such a project is based on the realization that a democracy that is open to exchange, question, and self-criticism never reaches the limits of justice.

Theorists such as Raymond Williams and Cornelius Castoriadis recognized that the crisis of democracy was not only about the crisis of culture but also the crisis of pedagogy and education. Cultural workers would do well to take account of the profound transformations taking place in the public sphere and reclaim pedagogy as a central category of politics itself. Pierre Bourdieu was right when he stated that cultural workers have too often "underestimated the symbolic and pedagogical dimensions of struggle and have not always forged appropriate weapons to fight on this front."[10] He goes on to say in a later conversation with Gunter Grass that "left intellectuals must recognize that the most important forms of domination are not only economic but also intellectual and pedagogical, and lie on the side of belief and persuasion. Important to recognize that intellectuals bear an enormous responsibility for challenging this form of domination."[11] These are important pedagogical interventions and imply rightly that critical pedagogy in the broadest sense is not just about understanding, however critical, but also provides the conditions, ideals, and practices necessary for assuming the responsibilities we have as citizens to expose human misery and to eliminate the conditions that produce it. Matters of responsibility, social action, and political intervention do not simply develop out of social critique but also forms of self-critique. The relationship between knowledge and power, on the one hand, and creativity and politics, on the other, should always be self-reflexive about its effects, how it relates to the larger world, whether or not it is open to new understandings, and what it might mean pedagogically to take seriously matters of individual and social responsibility. In short, this project points to the need for cultural workers to address critical pedagogy not only as a mode of educated hope and a crucial element of an insurrectional educational project, but also as a practice that addresses the possibility of interpretation as intervention in the world.

Critical pedagogy can neither be reduced to a method nor is it non-directive in the manner of a spontaneous conversation with friends over coffee. As public intellectuals, authority must be reconfigured not as a way to stifle the curiosity and deaden the imagination, but as a platform that provided the conditions for students to learn the knowledge, skills, values, and social relationships that enhance their capacities to assume authority over the forces that shape their lives both in and out of schools. Power and authority are always related, but such a relationship must never operate in the service of domination or the stifling of autonomy but in the service of what I have called the practice of freedom. The notion that authority is always on the side of repression and that pedagogy should never be directive is for all practical purposes a political and theoretical flight from the educator assuming a sense of moral and political responsibility. For artists and educators to be voiceless, renounce the knowledge that gives them a sense of authority, and to assume that a wider public does not need to be exposed to modes of knowledge, histories, and values outside of their immediate experience is to forget that pedagogy is always about the struggle over knowledge, desire, identity, values, agency, and a vision of the future. Critical pedagogy for public intellectuals must always be attentive to addressing the democratic potential of engaging how experience, knowledge, and power are shaped in the classroom in different and often unequal contexts, and how teacher authority might be mobilized against dominant pedagogical practices as part of the practice of freedom, particularly those practices that erase any trace of subaltern histories, historical legacies of class struggles, and the ever persistent historical traces and current structures of racial and gender inequalities and injustices. In this sense, teacher authority must be linked both to a never-ending sense of historical memory, existing inequities, and a "hopeful version of democracy where the outcome is a more just, equitable society that works toward the end of oppression and suffering of all."[12] As I have said elsewhere:

Authority in this perspective is not simply on the side of oppression, but is used to intervene and shape the space of teaching and learning to provide students with a range of possibilities for challenging a society's commonsense assumptions, and for analyzing the interface between their own everyday lives and those broader social formations that bear down on them. Authority, at best, becomes both a referent for legitimating a commitment to a particular vision of pedagogy and a critical referent for a kind of autocritique.[13]

Any viable understanding of the artist and educator as a public intellectual must begin with the recognition that democracy begins to fail and civic life becomes impoverished when pedagogy is no longer viewed as central to politics. This is clearly the case as made visible in the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Trump's claim that he loves the uneducated appears to have paid off for him just as his victory makes clear that ignorance rather than reason, emotion rather than informed judgment, and the threat of violence rather than critical exchange appear to have more currency in the age of Trump. In part, this political tragedy signifies the failure of the American public to recognize the educative nature of how agency is constructed, to address the necessity for moral witnessing, and the need to create a formative culture that produces critically engaged and socially responsible citizens. Such a failure empties democracy of any meaning. Such actions represent more than a flight from political and social responsibility; they also represent a surrender to the dark forces of authoritarianism. Democracy should be a way of thinking about education in a variety of spheres and practices, one that thrives on connecting equity to excellence, learning to ethics, and agency to the imperatives of the public good.[14] The question regarding what role education and pedagogy should play in democracy becomes all the more urgent at a time when the dark forces of authoritarianism are on the march all over the globe. Public values, trust, solidarities, and modes of education are under siege. As such, the discourses of hate, humiliation, rabid self-interest, and greed are exercising a poisonous influence in many Western societies. This is most evident at the present moment in the discourse of the right-wing extremists vying to consolidate their authority within a Trump presidency, all of whom sanction a war on immigrants, women, young people, poor Black youth, and so it goes. Under such circumstances, democracy is on life support. Yet rather than being a rationale for cynicism, radical democracy as both a pedagogical project and unfinished ideal should create an individual and collective sense of moral and political outrage, a new understanding of politics, and the pedagogical projects needed to allow democracy to breathe once again.

Trump's presence in American politics has made visible a plague of deep-seated civic illiteracy, a corrupt political system, and a contempt for reason; it also points to the withering of civic attachments, the collapse of politics into the spectacle of celebrity culture, the decline of public life, the use of violence and fear to numb people into shock, and a willingness to transform politics into a pathology. Trump's administration will produce a great deal of violence in American society, particularly among the ranks of the most vulnerable: poor children, minorities of colour, immigrants, women, climate change advocates, Muslims, and those protesting a Trump presidency. What must be made clear is that Trump's election and the damage he will do to American society will stay and fester for quite some time because he is only symptomatic of the darker forces that have been smoldering in American politics for the last 40 years. What cannot be exaggerated or easily dismissed is that Trump is the end result of a longstanding series of attacks on democracy and that his presence in the American political landscape has put democracy on trial. This is a challenge that artists, educators, and others must address. While mass civil demonstrations have and continue to erupt over Trump's election, what is more crucial to understand is that something more serious needs to be addressed. We have to acknowledge that at this particular moment in American history the real issue is not simply about resisting Donald Trump's insidious values and anti-democratic policies but whether a political system can be reclaimed in which democracy is not on trial but is deepened, strengthened and sustained. This will not happen unless new modes of representation challenge the aesthetics, culture, and discourse of neo-fascism. Yet, under a Trump presidency, it will be more difficult to sustain, construct, and nurture those public spheres that sustain critique, informed dialogue, and a work to expand the radical imagination. If democracy is to prevail in and through the threat of "dark times," it is crucial that the avenues of critique and possibility become central to any new understanding of politics. If the authoritarianism of the Trump era is to be challenged, it must begin with a politics that is comprehensive in its attempts to understand the intersectionality of diverse forces of oppression and resistance. That is, on the one hand, it must move towards developing analyses that address the existing state of authoritarianism through a totalizing lens that brings together the diverse registers of oppression and how they are both connected and mutually reinforce each other. On the other hand, such a politics must, as Robin D.G. Kelley has noted, "move beyond stopgap alliances"[15] and work to unite single issue movements into a more comprehensive and broad-based social movement that can make a viable claim to a resistance that is as integrated as it is powerful. For too long progressive cultural workers and activists have adhered to a narrative about domination that relies mostly on remaking economic structures and presenting to the public what might be called a barrage of demystifying facts and an aesthetics of transgression. What they have ignored is that people also internalize oppression and that domination is about not only the crisis of economics, images that deaden the imagination, and the misrepresentation of reality, but also about the crisis of agency, identification, meaning, and desire.

The crisis of economics and politics in the Trump era has not been matched by a crisis of consciousness and agency. The failure to develop a crisis of consciousness is deeply rooted in a society in that suffers from a plague of atomization, loneliness, and despair. Neoliberalism has undermined any democratic understanding of freedom, limiting its meaning to the dictates of consumerism, hatred of government, and a politics in which the personal is the only emotional referent that matters. Freedom has collapsed into the dark abyss of a vapid and unchecked individualism and in doing so has cancelled out that capacious notion of freedom rooted in bonds of solidarity, compassion, social responsibility, and the bonds of social obligations. The toxic neoliberal combination of unchecked economic growth and its discourse of plundering the earth's resources, coupled with a rabid individualism marked largely by its pathological disdain for community and public values, has weakened democratic pressures, values, and social relations and opened the door for the election of Donald Trump to the American Presidency. This collapse of democratic politics points to an absence in progressive movements and among various types of public intellectuals about how to address the importance of emotional connections among the masses, take seriously how to connect with others through pedagogical tools that demand respect, empathy, a willingness to listen to other stories, and to think seriously about how to change consciousness as an educative task. The latter is particularly important because it speaks to the necessity politically address the challenge of awakening modes of identification coupled with the use of language not merely to demystify but to persuade people that the issues that matter have something to do with their lived realities and daily lives. Pressing the claim for economic and political justice means working hard to develop alternative modes of consciousness, promote the proliferation of democratic public spheres, create the conditions for modes of mass resistance, and make the development of sustainable social movements central to any viable struggle for economic, political, and social justice. No viable democracy can exist without citizens who value and are willing to work towards the common good. That is as much a pedagogical question as it is a political challenge.

Footnotes:

[1] Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011).

[2] On this issue, see Henry A. Giroux, Neoliberalism's War on Higher Education(Chicago: Haymarket Press, 2014); Susan Searls Giroux, "On the Civic Function of Intellectuals Today," in Gary Olson and Lynn Worsham, eds. Education as Civic Engagement: Toward a More Democratic Society (Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2012), pp. ix-xvii.

[3] Bruce Robbins, "A Starting Point for Politics," The Nation, (October 22, 2016). Online: https://www.thenation.com/article/the-radical-life-of-stuart-hall

[4] Edward Said, Out of Place: A Memoir (New York: Vintage, 2000) p. 7.

[5] Edward Said, "On Defiance and Taking Positions," Reflections On Exile and Other Essays (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001), p. 504.

[6] See, especially, Christopher Newfield, Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008).

[7] Susan Sontag, "Courage and Resistance," The Nation (May 5, 2003), pp. 11-14.

[8] Zygmunt Bauman, Society under Siege (Malden, MA: Blackwell: 2002), p. 170.

[9] Jacques Derrida, "Intellectual Courage: An Interview," trans. Peter Krapp, Culture Machine, Volume 2 (2000), pp. 1-15.

[10] Pierre Bourdieu, Acts of Resistance (New York: Free Press, 1998), p. 11.

[11] Pierre Bourdieu and Gunter Grass, "The 'Progressive' Restoration: A Franco-German Dialogue," New Left Review 14 (March-April, 2002), P. 2

[12] Richard Voelz, "Reconsidering the Image of Preacher-Teacher: Intersections between Henry Giroux's Critical Pedagogy and Homiletics," Practical Matters (Spring 2014), p. 79.

[13] Henry A. Giroux, On Critical Pedagogy (New York: Continuum, 2011) p.81.

[14] Henry A. Giroux, Dangerous Thinking in the Age of the New Authoritarianism(New York: Routledge, 2015).

[15] Robin D. G. Kelley, "After Trump," Boston Review (November 15, 2016). Online: http://bostonreview.net/forum/after-trump/robin-d-g-kelley-trump-says-go-back-we-say-fight-back

Categories: News

Human Role in Climate Change Removed From Science Report

Truth Out - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 04:00

National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of the human impact on climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge that is intended to protect parks and visitors from the effects of climate change. This directly contradicts Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.

 Gage Skidmore)Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke speaks at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference on February 23, 2018, in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

This story was originally published by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Learn more at revealnews.org and subscribe to the Reveal podcast, produced with PRX, at revealnews.org/podcast.

National Park Service officials have deleted every mention of humans' role in causing climate change in drafts of a long-awaited report on sea level rise and storm surge, contradicting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's vow to Congress that his department is not censoring science.

The research for the first time projects the risks from rising seas and flooding at 118 coastal national park sites, including the National Mall, the original Jamestown settlement and the Wright Brothers National Memorial. Originally drafted in the summer of 2016 yet still not released to the public, the National Park Service report is intended to inform officials and the public about how to protect park resources and visitors from climate change.

Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting obtained and analyzed 18 versions of the scientific report. In changes dated Feb. 6, a park service official crossed out the word "anthropogenic," the term for people's impact on nature, in five places. Three references to "human activities" causing climate change also were removed.

The 87-page report, which was written by a University of Colorado Boulder scientist, has been held up for at least 10 months, according to documents obtained by Reveal. The delay has prevented park managers from having access to the best data in situations such as reacting to hurricane forecasts, safeguarding artifacts from floodwaters or deciding where to locate new buildings.

The omissions reflect a broader crackdown on climate science at federal agencies, including removal of references to human impacts, since President Donald Trump took office. Trump previously called climate change a Chinese hoax, took steps to withdraw from an international agreement to cut greenhouse gases and moved toward reversing President Barack Obama's policies to regulate power plant emissions.

The word “anthropogenic,” the term for people’s impact on nature, was removed from the executive summary of the sea level rise report for the National Park Service.The word "anthropogenic," the term for people's impact on nature, was removed from the executive summary of the sea level rise report for the National Park Service.

Critics say the National Park Service's editing of the report reflects unprecedented political interference in government science at the Interior Department, which oversees the park service.

Jonathan Overpeck, a climate scientist and dean of the University of Michigan's School for Environment and Sustainability, said the deletions are "shocking from a scientific point of view, but also from a policy point of view."

"To remove a very critical part of the scientific understanding is nothing short of political censorship and has no place in science," he said. "Censorship of this kind is something you'd see in Russia or some totalitarian regime. It has no place in America."

Several scientists said the editing appears to violate a National Park Service policy designed to protect science from political influence.

"It looks like a pretty clear-cut, blatant violation of what we generally would consider to be scientific integrity," said Jane Lubchenco, who led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under Obama.

National Park Service spokesman Jeffrey Olson said the agency would not comment on the editing of a report that had not yet been released. He said that it was premature to report on it and that it would be released soon.

A reference to “human activities” causing climate change was deleted from the report.A reference to "human activities" causing climate change was deleted from the report.

Zinke testified at a Senate committee hearing last month that the Interior Department has not changed any scientific documents.

"There is no incident, no incident at all that I know that we ever changed a comma on a document itself. Now we may have on a press release," Zinke told the senators. "And I challenge you, any member, to find a document that we've actually changed on a report."

Zinke's press secretary said no one at the Interior Department was available to comment about the report.

A hallmark of the Trump administration is equivocation about climate change to downplay the scientific consensus that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels are warming the planet.

Columbia University's Silencing Science Tracker documents more than 100 instances of government trying to restrict research or public information about climate change. Among them are reports on climate change that have been stripped from government websites. Climate change was removed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's strategic plan. Environmental Protection Agency employees were issued talking points that promote an inaccurate message about gaps in climate science and downplay the role of human activities in global warming.

The edited national parks report "is probably the biggest scientific integrity violation at the Department of Interior, by far … because this is an actual scientific report," said Joel Clement, who was the Interior Department's top climate change official in the Obama administration. He resigned in October after Zinke reassigned him to an oil and gas accounting office and now is a senior fellow for the Union of Concerned Scientists working on scientific integrity issues.

"By taking the words out, they are depowering the (climate change) issue," Clement said. "It's a horrible thing for reports to be suppressed and for the words to be changed."

Censored Words and Phrases

The report, titled, "Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Projections for the National Park Service," reveals that national treasures will face severe flooding if global greenhouse gases keep increasing. Some of its projections, according to the drafts, include:

• In North Carolina, the Wright Brothers National Memorial has the highest projected increase in sea level among parks nationwide -- 2.69 feet by 2100 under a scenario of high growth of greenhouse gases. Along with Cape Lookout and Cape Hatteras national seashores, the memorial could face significant permanent flooding. "Future storm surges will be exacerbated by future sea level rise nationwide; this could be especially dangerous for the Southeast Region where they already experience hurricane-strength storms," the report says.

• In Virginia, three parks -- Colonial National Historical Park, home of Historic Jamestowne; Fort Monroe National Monument; and Petersburg National Battlefield -- face the biggest potential sea level increases in the park service's Northeast region -- 2.66 feet by 2100.

• Parks in the Washington, DC, region could experience some of the greatest sea level increases -- 2.62 feet by 2100. "Storm surge flooding on top of this sea level rise would have widespread impacts," the report says.

• If a Category 2 hurricane hit Florida's Everglades National Park, the entire park could be flooded, with most of it under several feet of water.

Reveal obtained almost 2,000 pages of drafts of the report showing tracked changes and dating back to August 2016 -- along with dozens of pages of other documents about the report and preparations to release it -- in response to a public records request to the state of Colorado.

The lead author, University of Colorado geological sciences research associate Maria Caffrey, worked full time on the report on contract with the park service from 2013 through 2017.

Caffrey declined to discuss the editing and long delay in releasing her report, instead referring questions to the park service. Asked whether she has been pressured to delete the terms "anthropogenic" and "human activities," she replied, "I don't really want to get into that today."

"I would be very disappointed if there were words being attributed to me that I didn't write," she said. "I don't think politics should come into this in any way."

Although references to human-induced change were deleted, data and maps showing the severity of impacts on the parks were unchanged.

In drafts dated January 2017 to May 2017, the executive summary starts: "Changing relative sea levels and the potential for increasing storm surges due to anthropogenic climate change present challenges to national park managers."

But editing dated Feb. 6, 2018, changed that to: "Ongoing changes in relative sea levels and the potential for increasing storm surges present challenges to national park managers."

In a section about 2012's Hurricane Sandy, one of the costliest storms to hit the US, this sentence was deleted: "This single storm cannot be attributed to anthropogenic climate change, but the storm surge occurred over a sea whose level had risen due to climate change."

An entire sentence was removed from the report’s section on Hurricane Sandy.An entire sentence was removed from the report's section on Hurricane Sandy.

The introduction also was substantially altered in February. These two sentences were deleted: "While sea levels have been gradually rising since the last glacial maximum approximately 21,000 years ago, anthropogenic climate change has significantly increased the rate of global sea level rise. Human activities continue to release carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, causing the Earth's atmosphere to warm."

Other scientists who reviewed the draft reports said the deletions about the cause of climate change were alarming.

"It's hiding from the public the reality of the causes and the possible options to choose or influence what scenario plays out," Lubchenco said.

Some of the editing apparently remained in play. Caffrey has pushed back on at least some of the deletions, according to a March draft.

Editing notes in a draft obtained by Reveal indicate that many of the deletions were made by Larry Perez, a career public information officer who coordinates the park service's climate change response program.

Perez declined to comment on why the changes were made. Watchdog groups say that in some cases, career officials within the administration may be self-censoring to avoid angering Trump appointees. In others cases, they may be responding to verbal orders from superiors who have been told to avoid creating records that eventually could be made public.

The National Park Service's scientific integrity policy prohibits managers from engaging in "dishonesty, fraud, misrepresentation, coercive manipulation, censorship, or other misconduct that alters the content, veracity, or meaning or that may affect the planning, conduct, reporting, or application of scientific and scholarly activities." It also requires employees to differentiate between their opinions or assumptions and solid science.

Marcia McNutt, president of the National Academy of Sciences, said "the edits are glaringly in violation" of the science cited in the report and "such alterations violate" the policy.

"The individual who edited the document is making a personal opinion/assumption that runs counter to the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions responsible for sea level rise are of anthropogenic origin and that the threat to the National Park Service assets arises primarily from human activities," said McNutt, who led the US Geological Survey, the Interior Department's main scientific agency, from 2009 to 2013.

Clement, who worked for seven years as a high-ranking director in the Interior Department, said it would be unusual for such editing to occur without an order from a top supervisor.

"I can't imagine a career man or woman would take those steps without some sort of direction," he said.

The editing seemed to cross a line that Zinke drew during last month's hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii, pressed Zinke about censoring science. She asked him about department officials deleting this line from a press release about a newly published scientific article: "Global climate change drives sea-level rise, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding."

In his testimony, Zinke differentiated editing press releases from altering scientific reports. He also rebuffed suggestions that he considers references to climate change unacceptable, saying "man has been an influencer" on the warming climate.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska and the committee's chairwoman, summarized Zinke's comments: "I think you were pretty clear … that within the department, you're not altering the reports that are coming out from the agencies."

Why the Deletions Matter

Caffrey, the park service report's lead author, said it's crucial that the report address the human role in climate change. One of her key findings is that decisions about reducing greenhouse gases will determine how much peril the coastal national parks face from sea level rise and storm surge.

The report calculates projected sea level rise in 2030, 2050 and 2100 under four scenarios for global emissions. For instance, projections for the National Mall and Memorial Parks in Washington in 2100 range from 1.74 feet to 2.62 feet. The low end envisions a future in which people burn significantly less coal and other fossil fuels, while the upper number reflects increases in use.

"What scenario we choose to follow in the future will have a significant impact on how we protect our resources, like the National Park Service resources," Caffrey said. "I feel it's an important part to include in the report because it's an essential part of those findings."

In an October 2016 webinar for park staff about her research, Caffrey showed an aerial photo that depicts Washington in 2100 if global emissions rise and a Category 3 hurricane hits the city. The National Mall and Constitution Avenue are flooded. Water surrounds museums.

"We can see the results could potentially be quite catastrophic," Caffrey said in an interview.

The report is intended to be released with an interactive website that would allow the public and park managers to visualize rising waters in their favorite parks.

"You can zoom in and move around and see the underlying infrastructure and see what's at risk," said William Manley, a University of Colorado Boulder research scientist who worked on data, maps and the online viewer.

"The data and the viewer, if released, would help park decision-makers to see more clearly what decisions they should make to avoid costly mistakes," he said. In addition, "the maps and information would be helpful to resource managers in preparation for any storms that were forecasted."

For instance, if the report had been released by late last summer, park managers could have consulted it when Hurricanes Irma and Maria, both Category 5 storms, headed toward the US Virgin Islands in September. The storm surge maps for Virgin Islands National Park could have shown managers which areas were likely to flood. The interactive viewer possibly could have helped evacuation planning.

"It's becoming clearer and clearer to most Americans that weather patterns are changing, climate change is a real phenomenon, and it's affecting things they care about, people they love and places that they love," said Lubchenco, the former NOAA administrator.

"I think what we are seeing is an effort to undermine that realization in a very subtle way. And it's very dangerous. It's counter to the best interests of a fully democratic society."

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Categories: News

In Wake of Gaza Massacre, Israeli Leaders Should Be Prosecuted for War Crimes

Truth Out - Fri, 04/06/2018 - 04:00

 Abbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images)A Palestinian man wears a gas mask as he walks in the smoke during a protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 6, 2018. Clashes erupted on the Gaza-Israel border Friday, a week after Israeli force killed 19 Palestinians at similar demonstrations. (Photo: Abbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images)

On March 30, Israel Defense Forces soldiers shot 773 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, killing 17 and wounding 1,400. This premeditated use of deadly force against peaceful protesters is illegal and the Israeli leaders who ordered the massacre should be prosecuted for war crimes.

 Abbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images)A Palestinian man wears a gas mask as he walks in the smoke during a protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah on April 6, 2018. Clashes erupted on the Gaza-Israel border Friday, a week after Israeli force killed 19 Palestinians at similar demonstrations. (Photo: Abbas Momani / AFP / Getty Images)

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On March 30, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers shot 773 unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza, killing 17 and wounding 1,400. Twenty remain in critical condition. The protesters were marching to demand the internationally mandated right of return of refugees to their cities and villages in what now constitutes Israel.

The Israeli leaders who ordered the massacre were in clear violation of international law. They should be prosecuted for war crimes.

Premeditated Use of Deadly Force Against Peaceful Protesters

The use of deadly force against the peaceful protesters was premeditated. The IDF deployed 100 snipers to the border fence between Gaza and Israel, where 30,000 to 40,000 Palestinians had gathered for the Great March of Return. In a damning tweet, later deleted, the IDF wrote, "Nothing was carried out uncontrolled; everything was accurate and measured, and we know where every bullet landed."

Jihad al-Juaidi, director of the ICU at the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, told Al Jazeera that all of the injured people who came to the hospital were shot in the head, pelvic joints or knee joints. "This shows that Israeli forces were shooting-to-kill, or to cause disabilities," al-Juaidi stated.

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

B'Tselem, a Jerusalem-based human rights organization, characterized the military orders as "shoot-to-kill unarmed Palestinians taking part in these demonstrations."

"Israeli soldiers were not merely using excessive force, but were apparently acting on orders that all but ensured a bloody military response to the Palestinian demonstrations," Eric Goldstein, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's (HRW) Middle East and Africa division, stated.

Senior IDF officers told Haaretz before the protest that a large number of casualties was "a price we would be willing to pay to prevent a breach" of the fence at the border.

Israeli leaders fostered the false narrative that Hamas was sponsoring the protest. Jason Greenblatt, US envoy to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, followed suit, tweeting, "Hamas is encouraging a hostile march on the Israel-Gaza border" and accused Hamas of "inciting violence against Israel."

To read more stories like this, visit Human Rights and Global Wrongs.

But the demonstration was actually organized by several Palestinian civil society organizations. "No Palestinian faction, organization or group can claim this march as its own. Hamas was simply riding the wave," Jamil Khader wrote on Mondoweiss. Palestinian flags, not factional ones, were visible.

Conflating civilians with terrorists and framing the planned response as protection against a security risk, Israeli authorities referred to Gaza as a "combat zone."

Lethal Force Can Only Be Used if Imminent Threat to Life

It is illegal to shoot unarmed civilians under international humanitarian law. Some protesters threw rocks and burned tires near the border fence. But HRW found "no evidence of any protester using firearms or any IDF claim of threatened firearm use at the demonstrations." No Israeli soldiers were killed and "the army did not report any injuries to soldiers."

"Even if a Palestinian was throwing a stone, the chances that under these conditions such an act could cause an imminent threat to life -- the only situation that would justify the use of lethal force under international law -- are infinitesimal," Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, wrote on HuffPost. "Indeed, even if Palestinians were trying to climb the fence, that would not give Israel the right to use lethal force."

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director of HRW, concurred, stating, "Israeli allegations of violence by some protesters do not change the fact that using lethal force is banned by international law except to meet an imminent threat to life."

Indeed, the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement specifies, "intentional lethal use of firearms may only be made when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life."

"Senior Israeli leaders who unlawfully called for the use of live ammunition against Palestinian demonstrators who posed no imminent threat to life bear responsibility" for the deaths and injuries, HRW asserted in a statement. That includes Israel's prime minister, defense minister and chief of staff.

B'Tselem, which has called for Israeli soldiers to disobey patently illegal orders, described the legal duty to disobey unlawful orders: "It is also a criminal offense to obey patently illegal orders. Therefore, as long as soldiers in the field continue to receive orders to use live fire against unarmed civilians, they are duty-bound to refuse to comply."

Prosecute Israeli Leaders in International Criminal Court

Israeli leaders responsible for the deaths and injuries on March 30 should be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power has a legal duty to protect the occupied. Grave breaches of the convention constitute war crimes. They include willful killing; willfully causing great suffering or serious injury; intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population; and intentionally launching attacks with knowledge they will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians The IDF committed all of these grave breaches on March 30.

Furthermore, under international humanitarian law, the IDF failed to comply with the principles of distinction and proportionality. Distinction requires parties to a conflict to direct their attacks only against people taking part in the hostilities. Proportionality prohibits an attack if the damage to the civilian population will be greater than the military advantage anticipated from the attack. The IDF violated both of those principles on March 30.

An independent commission of inquiry convened by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza documented the deaths of 2,251 Palestinians, which included 1,462 civilian deaths and the injuring of 11,231 Palestinians. Six civilians and 67 soldiers were killed and 1,600 injured on the Israeli side. The commission concluded that Israel, and to a lesser extent, Palestinian armed groups, had likely committed violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, some constituting war crimes. 

Currently, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda is conducting a preliminary examination into the 2014 massacre. She should expand her inquiry to include the events of March 30, 2018.

US Vetoes Security Council Resolution Calling for Investigation

UN Secretary-General António Guterres and European Union diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini advocated independent investigations into the use of deadly force by the IDF at the border fence on March 30. But the day after the massacre, the United States vetoed a Security Council resolution that called for an "independent and transparent investigation" and affirmed the right of Palestinians to peaceful protest.

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's defense minister, said the IDF soldiers "deserve a medal" for protecting the border. "As for a commission of inquiry -- there won't be one," he declared on Israeli Army Radio.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised his troops for "guarding the country's borders" and permitting "Israeli citizens to celebrate the [Passover] holiday peacefully," adding, "Well done to our soldiers."

Rabbi Alissa Wise, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace, noted in a statement, "The Israeli military evidently believes that any time Palestinians assert their basic rights in any way, they will be considered violent, and met with deadly violence."

Meanwhile, the Palestinian protests are slated to last until May 15, the day Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or the "great catastrophe" of 1948-9, when Israel expelled 800,000 Palestinians from their lands to create Israel. Approximately 70 percent of the 1.3 million Gazans are refugees.

"I think the only way truly forward is to recognize that there is a root cause: 70 years of Nakba," Wise said.

Categories: News

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